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25 years of global sanitation and water monitoring

Published on: 30/06/2015

Over the last 25 years, a unique UN partnership has developed a robust monitoring mechanism that can support the goal of universal access.

Ghana Water end user  

By Cor Dietvorst and Ton Schouten

The World Health Organization and UNICEF are celebrating a unique partnership. Over the last 25 years their Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) has been the single, authoritative mechanism for monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) for sanitation and drinking water.  The robust model that they have developed thahas laid the foundation for monitoring of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Key achievements and challenges

JMP 2015 update report coverThe 25th anniversary celebration took place on 30 June 2015, with the launch of JMP’s 2015 Progress Update and MDG Assessment in New York. The 2015 report is the final update of the MDG era and provides a comprehensive assessment of progress towards the MDG target. It shows how much the world has changed, highlighting key achievements and providing insights into challenges remaining.

The report specifically focuses on inequalities between the richest and poorest segments of the population, underlining the challenge of achieving universal access post-2015. Sanitation and water equity are key elements of the recently developed WASH Performance Index, which takes its data from JMP.

Some of the 25 year findings in the report:

  • Although 663 million people still have no access to an improved water source, since 1990, 2.6 billion people did gain access to an improved drinking water source .
  • Urban coverage with piped water on premises has remained largely unchanged since 1990, whereas rural coverage has almost doubled. Four out of five people living in urban areas now have access to piped drinking water on premises, compared with just one in three people living in rural areas.
  • It is estimated that during the MDG period use of improved sanitation facilities rose from 54 per cent to 68 per cent globally. The global MDG target of 77 per cent has therefore been missed by nine percentage points and almost 700 million people. In 2015 it is estimated that 2.4 billion people globally still use unimproved sanitation facilities.
  • Few countries have halved the proportion of the poorest without access to drinking water and sanitation since 1995.

Better data

The JMP has faced challenges of limited data and the lack of standard indicators to assess trends over time. Over the years it has therefore supported efforts to improve data quality and standardisation of indicators. To illustrate this, since 2000, the number of nationally representative household surveys and censuses in the JMP database has increased six-fold from 272 to 1658. Nevertheless users need to be aware of the limitations of national datasets.

Post-2015 monitoring

Over the past 5 years, the  JMP has been laying the foundations for post-2015 monitoring. It has convened working groups and task forces and collaborated with researchers to develop new methods for monitoring hygiene, water safety, management of excreta, and WASH in schools and health facilities. IRC actively participated in all the JMP working groups and has co-chaired the water working group

Most recently, the JMP Advocacy and communications Working Group has started a campaign to include a global-level hygiene indicator in the SDGs.

Congratulations to the JMP and its partners in crime UNICEF and WHO, for 25 year of great results and positioning WASH strategically in the global and UN community. 

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