Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
The rural-urban gap has narrowed regarding the access to safe water but disparities remain significant. At national level in 2015, the gap was estimated as 17 percentage points.
Inequities are far greater in sanitation than in water coverage. This may be because having improved sanitation facilities is not a priority amongst the poor, whereas clean water is universally desired. Sanitation coverage in rural areas is an estimated 38 percentage points behind that in urban areas in 2015.
In 79 percent of households without water on the premises, females collect the water. This trend is more pronounced among poor rural families, families whose heads have little or no education and ethnic groups living in remote mountainous areas.
The health and nutrition outcomes of unsafe water and inadequate sanitation are severe. Children living in households with safe water and sanitation are less prone to diarrhoea, stunting and underweight. Children living in rural villages where community members defecate in the open and/or use unimproved latrines are shorter than healthy children living in rural villages where everybody uses improved sanitation. This small difference in height is irreversible and matters a great deal for a child's cognitive development and future productive potential.
Water safety and water quality need increased attention, more so in towns and cities. In Lao PDR, surface water is the major water source for urban supply as most towns are located along the rivers. Lao PDR still has acceptable water quality in its rivers, but this is under increasing threat from pollution. The main causes are waste and sewerage from the growing population and urbanization, and run-offs from agricultural, industrial and mineral exploitation activities.
Urban sanitation is generally poor. Vientiane Capital suffers from the lack of adequate drainage and sewerage systems, and the poor design of existing sewerage disposal or septic tanks.
Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people, an alarming figure that is projected to rise as temperatures do. Although 2.1 billion people have improved water sanitation since 1990, dwindling drinking water supplies are affecting every continent.
More and more countries are experiencing water stress, and increasing drought and desertification is already worsening these trends. By 2050, it is projected that at least one in four people will suffer recurring water shortages.
Safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030 requires we invest in adequate infrastructure, provide sanitation facilities, and encourage hygiene. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems is essential.
Ensuring universal safe and affordable drinking water involves reaching over 800 million people who lack basic services and improving accessibility and safety of services for over two billion.
In 2015, 4.5 billion people lacked safely managed sanitation services (with adequately disposed or treated excreta) and 2.3 billion lacked even basic sanitation.