Urban-rural disparities in access to improved drinking-water sources are higher in Eastern/Southern Africa than in any other region.
Progress in both water and sanitation coverage during the 1990s was slow. In 2004, just 56 per cent of the region’s population had access to improved drinking-water sources, up from 48 per cent in 1990 but well short of the 2015 target of 74 per cent, and 38 per cent had access to improved sanitation facilities, up slightly from 35 per cent in 1990.
Although 74 million people gained access to improved drinking-water sources between 1990 and 2004, the increase in coverage did not keep pace with population growth, and as a result, the absolute number of people without improved drinking-water sources increased from 129 million to 154 million. A further 129 million will need to gain access by 2015 if the MDG target is to be met.
In sanitation, the increase in coverage was not sufficient to match population growth, and the number of people without coverage increased from 162 million to 215 million. To meet the 2015 target of 68 per cent coverage, a further 163 million, or around 16 million a year, will need to gain access.
The under-five mortality rate in Eastern/Southern Africa is the second largest in the developing world after West/Central Africa, so these issues are of critical importance.
Flood and drought emergencies in the region are cyclical and often catastrophic. Because of climate shifts, what was once a 10-year drought cycle in the Horn of Africa has now been abbreviated to between three and five years.
In addition, cholera – a waterborne disease – remains a severe threat.
Urban-rural disparities in access to improved drinking-water sources are large – with 86 per cent coverage in urban areas, compared to just 42 per cent in the countryside.