According to the 2014 Joint Monitoring Report on global progress against the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on water and sanitation released Thursday, urban areas where more than half of the global population lives are still better supplied with improved water and sanitation than rural ones. But this gap is decreasing.
The report, produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, noted that in 1990 more than 76 percent of people living in urban areas had access to improved sanitation, as opposed to only 28 percent in rural ones, Xinhua reported.
By 2012, 80 percent of urban dwellers and 47 percent of rural ones had access to better sanitation.
In 1990, 95 percent of people in urban areas could drink improved water, compared with 62 percent of people in rural ones. By 2012, 96 percent of people living in towns and 82 percent of those in rural areas had access to improved water.
Despite this progress, sharp geographic, socio-cultural, and economic inequalities in access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities still persist around the world.
"The vast majority of those without improved sanitation are poorer people living in rural areas. Progress on rural sanitation where it has occurred has primarily benefited richer people, increasing inequalities," said Maria Neira, WHO director for public health, environmental and social determinants of health.
"Too many people still lack a basic level of drinking water and sanitation," added Neira.
In addition to these disparities, there are often also striking differences in access within towns and cities. People living in low-income, informal or illegal settlements or on the outskirts of cities or small towns are less likely to have access to an improved water supply or better sanitation.
"When we fail to provide equal access to improved water sources and sanitation, we are failing the poorest and the most vulnerable children and their families," said Sanjay Wijesekera, Unicef chief of water, sanitation and hygiene.
"If we hope to see children healthier and better educated, there must be more equitable and fairer access to improved water and sanitation."