The lack of facilities causes most of the 5,000 deaths each day of children from diarrhoea-related illness. While the number of people practising open defecation has dropped by a quarter since 1990 to less than 18 percent, approximately 1.2 billion people do not use toilets, which the UN agencies warn leaves them at great risk. "Close to half the population in Southern Asia still practises open defecation," Clarissa Brocklehurst, Unicef's chief of water and environmental sanitation, told the BBC.
"We cannot expect child mortality rates to drop unless that figure improves, as access to clean water and sanitation underlie so many UN development targets."
More than 90 percent of the world's population will have clean water by 2015, the report predicts.
If we want to break the stranglehold of poverty... we must address water and sanitation, said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general.