More than 2 billion people across the world still have no access to safe drinking water, according to a United Nations progress report released on Tuesday.
Many diseases - like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A - could be eliminated if clean drinking water and toilets with safe waste management were universally available, the World Health Organisation said. Intestinal worms and bacterial eye infections would also be reduced.
The report also noted that 4.2 billion people don't have access to toilets that safely dispose of waste, with 673 million of those still practising open defecation.
Only 9 per cent of people worldwide now defecate in open spaces - compared to 21 per cent in the year 2000.
But in 39 countries, the number of people without toilets has actually gone up, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, where there has been significant population growth.
In addition, 3 billion people are without basic hygiene services, the definition of which includes using a latrine that does not have to be shared with other households, and having hand-washing facilities with soap and water in the home.
Australian Associated Press