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World Water Day 2011: Responding to the urban challenge

Access to water in many peri-urban areas in Mozambique is limited and sometimes such areas have less water coverage than many rural areas.

MAPUTO, Mozambique – 22 March 2011 – Access to water is vital to the sustainable development of cities and their inhabitants. As cities grow and their populations increase, water scarcity is becoming an increasing constraint to urban development. New sources are more costly to develop and lack of affordable water supply in combination with uncontrolled wastage results in increasingly polluted water sources, environmental degradation and the spread of water-related diseases.

“Many peri-urban areas in Mozambique have lower water supply coverage and less access to safe water than many rural areas,” says Dr. Samuel Godfrey, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF Mozambique.

Figures for urban coverage of access to water and sanitation in Mozambique are much higher than rural areas, 70 per cent vs 30 per cent for water supply, according to the 2008 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey report, but the urban figure is largely based on coverage in the city centers alone, whereas large parts of so-called peri-urban areas are having lower coverage than many rural areas. Various unpublished reports have confirmed this situation as well; in some peri-urban areas estimates of water supply coverage are as low as 10%.

“The poorest people in these areas are hardest hit: service levels are low and yet they pay the highest water prices,” says Dr. Godfrey.

Many urban authorities in developing countries, including Mozambique, have not yet found a sustainable solution to peri-urban water and sanitation challenges. They cannot afford to extend sewers to the poorer areas; nor can they treat the volume of sewage already collected.

© UNICEF Mozambique
In Mozambique, only 30 per cent of rural areas have adequate access to water.

There is growing evidence that the water infrastructure will also be significantly affected by climate change, particularly through the impact of floods, droughts or other extreme weather events. Water resources are expected to change, both in quantity and quality; and water, storm water and wastewater facilities will face greater risk of damage caused by storms, floods and droughts. With Mozambique’s urban population projected to grow from nearly 40% in 2010 to over 65% in 2050, this means a tremendous challenge for Mozambique and its development partners to ensure sustainable access to water and sanitation for the development and well-being of its population.

The global celebration of World Water Day 2011 on March 22 provides a good opportunity to focus on the concerning situation in Mozambique’s peri-urban areas. According to Dr. Godfrey, four interlinked key challenges should be addressed:

  • Advocacy for recognition of peri-urban areas in data collection exercises to ensure disaggregated data collection and analysis;
  • Coordination among key stakeholders to ensure a targeted approach towards solutions;
  • Allocation of sufficient financial resources for implementation of water and sanitation programmes in peri-urban areas;
  • Improved urban planning and land management.

Dr. Godfrey hopes that World Water Day 2011, which this year is celebrated with the theme ‘Water for the cities: Responding to the urban challenge’, will help place a greater focus on the peri-urban water supply and inspire new opportunities to address the challenges.

For more information, please contact:
Samuel Godfrey, UNICEF Mozambique, Tel. (+258) 481 100;



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