It’s been ten years since world leaders came together to form what became the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to tackle world poverty. Heads of state recently met again for a summit at UN headquarters in New York to discuss progress made in the last decade.

My most recent assignment with Water Aid UK was not to document progress that the NGO has made in communities where it works. Instead I was commissioned to visit areas where there is still much work left to be done. Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to find schools, hospitals and communities that lack clean water sources or proper toilets and sanitation facilities here in NE Uganda, which is the poorest and least developed area of the country. Water Aid has used these stories for awareness campaigns that led up to the summit. They’ve also shared them with the decision makers themselves. They hope to highlight how clean water and proper sanitation facilities can help achieve the MGD’s goal of, among other things, cutting poverty in half by 2015.

Recently the UN declared access to clean water and sanitation a fundamental human right and pressed donors to “scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable water and sanitation for all.” Half the world’s population lacks access to proper sanitation facilities such as a simple toilet, whereas one in eight is in need of access to clean water. As a result diarrhea kills over 4,000 children alone every day. Poor water and sanitation facilities also lead to drop-outs in school attendance and unhygienic standards at clinics and hospitals.

In the wake of the global economic downturn it is unlikely that all the goals will be met. However, some significant progress has been made.

all photos Jake Lyell and Jake Lyell/Water Aid