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

Coverage of improved drinking-water sources is less than 50 per cent in five countries of West/Central Africa.

West/Central Africa

Coverage improved very slowly between 1990 and 2004, from 49 per cent to 55 per cent in access to improved drinking-water sources and from 28 per cent to 36 per cent in access to improved sanitation facilities.

These small rates of increase failed to keep pace with the expanding population in the region. The absolute number of people without access to drinking water increased from 124 million to 157 million, and the number without sanitation from 173 million to 225 million.

Although 75 million people gained access to improved drinking-water sources between 1990 and 2004, a further 147 million will need to gain access between now and 2015 if the MDG target is to be met.

Similarly, although 56 million people benefited for the first time from improved sanitation between 1990 and 2004, another 165 million must be reached between now and 2015 to achieve the MDG target. If current trends continue and the rate of progress does not improve, about 260 million people in the region will be without access.

The water and sanitation position in West/Central Africa is of particular urgency, as the region has the lowest under-five mortality rate of all developing regions.

The majority of the region’s population remains based in rural areas, but urbanization is increasing fast. About 49 million people living in urban areas gained access to improved drinking-water sources from 1990 to 2004 (compared with only 26 million people living in rural areas). Yet this increase was unable to match the expanding urban population, and the number of people without access in urban areas doubled, from 17 million to 34 million.

Civil strife and the resulting refugee and internally displaced populations have strained resources in the region and slowed progress in water and sanitation coverage.

Burkina Faso, Liberia and Niger have the largest urban-rural disparities in access to improved sanitation facilities in West/Central Africa.