Central Asian countries have some of the largest urban-rural disparities in access to improved drinking-water sources in CEE/CIS.
At 91 per cent, improved drinking-water coverage in the region is high, but it has not advanced since 1990, and CEE/CIS is making no progress towards its MDG target. Some 22 million people will need to gain access by 2015 if the target is to be met.
Access to sanitation has also remained static, at 84 per cent, leaving 63 million in the region currently without improved sanitation facilities.
Urban-rural disparities are significant: The regional averages show 98 per cent (urban) to 79 per cent (rural) for improved drinking water and 93 per cent to 70 per cent, respectively, for sanitation. Given that urban provision is generally high, it is clear that the key challenge in pursuit of the MDG targets is to increase coverage in rural areas. This is underlined by the fact that the number of people in rural areas with access to improved drinking-water sources actually declined by 4 million between 1990 and 2004.
In the wake of environmental change, Central Asian countries are facing steadily shrinking water reserves, and national water systems are struggling to cope. The low level of the Aral Sea has affected large parts of the subregion. Sinking water tables and increased salinity have reduced drinking-water access to levels far below the regional average, sometimes dropping as low as 10 per cent. In some areas, pesticides have seeped into the water supply.
Water and sanitation networks have rapidly deteriorated in areas of Central Asia; piped water is often untreated because countries lack the appropriate chemicals for purification; and many households once served through piped water and sewage systems have reverted to poorly constructed latrines and untreated water.
In these circumstances, water-related diseases are among the most common causes of child mortality, and under-five mortality levels are far higher in the Central Asian republics than the CEE/CIS regional average.
Coverage of improved sanitation facilities is less than two thirds in rural areas of nine CEE/CIS countries.
The chart shows rural-area coverage in 2004.