An international charity organisation, WaterAid, said 663 million people globally do not have access to clean water.
This is contained in a report released on Wednesday to mark World Water Day.
WaterAid also said that of 522 million live in rural areas.
It added that Papua New Guinea, Mozambique and Madagascar were among the countries worst off and are also among the 20 per cent of nations worldwide that are most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt.
The report said that 67 per cent of the rural population of the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea live without access to safe drinking water.
That means that 4.4 million people, out of a total population of 7.2 million, have no access to clean water in the country.
Madagascar followed closely behind with 10.2 million people in rural areas, out of a total population of 22 million, who struggle to find clean drinking water.
In Mozambique 11.5 million people, out of 22.9 million in total, have no access to clean water.
The country with the greatest percentage of the rural population without access to clean water was Angola, at 71 per cent.
The country, Africa’s fifth largest economy, has a population of 22.8 million, with 12.7 million living in rural areas.
It added that India, among the world’s fastest-growing economies and home to 17 per cent of the world’s population with 1.2 billion people, has 63.4 million people in rural areas without access to clean water, the largest number of people in the world without access to clean water.
The report found that China, the world’s most populous country with 1.4 billion people, has 43.7 million living without clean water in rural areas.
The report said the extreme weather events resulting from climate change, including cyclones, floodings and prolonged drought, could make it even harder for world’s most vulnerable to access safe water.
It will impact on the health, well-being, and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people, the report said.
“Climate change is expected to make an already difficult situation worse… It is predicted that over 40 per cent of the global population is likely to be living in areas characterised as being under ‘severe water stress’ by 2050,” the report said.
“Clean water is not a privilege, it is a basic human right, yet over half a billion rural people are still living without access to safe drinking water” Rosie Wheen, WaterAid Australia’s chief Executive, said in a statement.
She said rural communities, which are marginalised by their remote location and a continued lack of funding for basic services, often bear the greatest burden.
The organisation asked governments to prioritise and fund water, sanitation and hygiene projects and to help poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.(NAN)