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A REPORT CARD ON WATER AND SANITATION: NUMBER 5, SEPTEMBER 2006 View Previous Editions>

Mongolia and Papua New Guinea have the largest urban-rural disparities in access to improved drinking-water sources in East Asia/Pacific.

East Asia/Pacific

The region has the world’s largest numbers of people without access to improved drinking-water sources and sanitation facilities. It is marked by disparities – especially in sanitation coverage, including within some countries that are on course to meet the MDG targets. Indeed, inequity in the region is a growing concern in view of its overall progress.

Access to improved drinking-water sources increased from 72 per cent in 1990 to 79 per cent in 2004, and 333 million people gained access to water over that period. What is more, the progress kept up with population growth, so the actual number of people without access decreased by 61 million. Nevertheless, East Asia/Pacific has 402 million people without access to improved drinking-water sources, and 272 million more people will need to gain access by 2015 if the target is to be met.

Progress in sanitation coverage was even more marked, leaping from 30 per cent in 1990 to 51 per cent in 2004, and almost a half-billion people gained access over that period. The total number of people still unreached remains vast, however, at 944 million. More than a third of the world’s population without basic sanitation lives in East Asia/Pacific.

As in all the world’s regions, people living in urban areas are much more likely to have access to improved drinking-water sources and sanitation facilities than people living in rural areas.

Some 92 per cent of the region’s urban population benefit from improved drinking water, but this is a decline from 97 per cent in 1990 and has led to a fivefold increase in the number of city people without access between 1990 and 2004 because of rapid urbanization.

China, Myanmar and Viet Nam had the largest increases in the region in access to improved sanitation facilities, 1990–2004.