United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has said 40% of the world’s population faces water scarcity.

The UN chief, speaking on World Water Day, told diplomats and activists at Thursday’s launch of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development that “water is a matter of life and death”, stressing that humans, cities, industries and agriculture depend on it.

But Mr Guterres said more than two billion people lack access to safe water, over 4.5 billion lack adequate sanitation, “and more than 90% of disasters are water-related”.

The secretary-general said he has prepared an action plan for the Water Decade to achieve UN goals for 2030 which include providing clean water and sanitation.