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Water shortages call for greater collaboration between partners and countries

Mozambique among the three Eastern and Southern Africa countries with the best performance in expanding access to water and sanitation supplies

Maputo, 21 March 2007 – ‘Coping with water scarcity’ is the theme of World Water Day 2007, which is celebrated every year on 22 March. This year, it is intended to stress the growing importance of water scarcity across the globe, and the need for greater cooperation between partners and countries that will make it possible to ensure sustainable, efficient and equitable management of scarce water resources internationally.

When debating the theme of limited water resources, one must take into account the imbalances between availability and demand, the degradation in the quality of ground water and surface water, inter-regional and international disputes around this problem, and how to live with scarce water resources.

To a large extent, Mozambique depends on water resources that originate in neighbouring countries. This is where 54 per cent of the annual surface flow comes from. The country is also characterised by great climatic diversity, with annual rainfall varying from 400 mm (in the south) to 1800 mm (in the north) and a complex hydrological network with nine shared rivers.

The theme of World Water Day 2007 is more than simply a way to focus attention on this issue. It is a specific and emphatic call to action” said Jacques Diouf General Direcctor of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the coordinating agency for this year’s World Water Day observance. “FAO recognizes that as the number-one user of water worldwide, the agriculture sector must take the lead in addressing the rising global demand for water.”

Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of the freshwater withdrawn worldwide, because without water there would be no agriculture. The figure is closer to 95 percent in several developing countries, where roughly three-quarters of the world’s irrigated farmlands are located.

More than a billion people throughout the world (about 20 per cent of the world’s population) have no access to clean drinking water, and about 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. The world water crisis is a global question. A third of the world’s population lives in countries with deficient access to water, and it is believed that these figures may rise dramatically in the coming decades. The crisis is at its worst in developing nations, especially in sub-Saharan African and south Asian countries.
“Access to clean drinking water is critical for the health of children around the world,” said Veneman at the event organized by Starbucks Coffee Company and Ethos ™ Water.  “In many parts of the world women and children walk long distances to fetch water for their families for drinking, washing and cooking,” said Veneman.

Eastern and southern Africa face one of the lowest water and sanitation coverage rates in the world. In 2004, only 56 per cent of people in the region had access to improved sources of drinking water (up from about 48 per cent in 1990) and 38 per cent had access to improved sanitation (the figure was slightly more than 35 per cent in 1990). (cif UNICEF Progress for Children, A report card on water and sanitation, September 2006).

The situation in Mozambique

Despite the progress made in Mozambique in expanding access to water and sanitation, this is still not sufficient to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Data from 2004 indicate that only 26 per cent of the population in rural areas had access to improved sources of drinking water (compared with 72 per cent in urban areas). The total coverage was only 43 per cent in the entire country. The MDG target for Mozambique is 68 per cent coverage with improved sources of drinking water by 2015.

Despite noteworthy improvement in access to improved sanitation, in comparison with other countries in the region, the report indicates that in 2004 only 19 per cent of the population in the rural areas of Mozambique had access to improved sanitation, compared with 53 per cent in the urban areas, giving a total coverage of 32 per cent. The MDG target for Mozambique is 60 per cent access to improved sanitation by 2015.

Data from the Demographic and Health Survey (IDS) of 2003 show that poor access to water supplies and to basic sanitation is the key factor contributing to the high levels of diarrhoeal diseases in Mozambique, which still has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the world. One hundred and seventy eight (178) children out of every 1,000 live births in Mozambique die before their fifth birthday because of malaria, acute respiratory infections, AIDS, malnutrition, diarrhoeal diseases and measles, although many of these deaths can be avoided by vaccination or other simply prophylactic measures.

For further information, contact:

Carlos Noa Laísse, Rural Water Department/DNA, Maputo: (+258) 82 312 8110;,

Eugénio Macamo, Programmes, FAO Maputo: (+258) 82 326 4750,

Manuel Freitas, Water and Sanitation, UNICEF Maputo: (+258) 82 317 9170,

Gabriel Pinho Pereira, Communication, UNICEF Maputo: (+258) 82 316 5390,    





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