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

Access to improved drinking-water sources, 2004.

Globally, 95 per cent of people living in urban areas and 73 per cent of people living in rural areas have access to improved drinking-water sources. The largest regional disparities are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Disparities

Disparities

Among the largest disparities in safe water and basic sanitation are those between urban and rural populations. Globally, access to improved drinking-water sources is 95 per cent in urban areas, compared with 73 per cent in rural areas. The urban-rural divide in drinking water is at its widest in sub-Saharan Africa, where 81 per cent of people in urban areas are served, compared with 41 per cent in rural areas.

Moreover, of the more than 1.2 billion people who gained access to improved drinking-water sources over the period 1990–2004, nearly two thirds lived in urban areas. Notwithstanding this, the pace of urbanization is such that the absolute number of people without access to drinking water increased by 63 million in urban areas, doubling in sub-Saharan Africa and quintupling in East Asia/Pacific.

Of the more than 1 billion people who remain without access to improved drinking water, about 900 million live in rural areas, where journeys to collect water tend to be longer than in urban areas. Three quarters of the world’s rural population must collect water from a communal source, and they must collect sufficient amounts not only for drinking but for the cooking and washing needs of the whole family.

Urban sanitation coverage worldwide was more than twice as high as rural coverage in 2004 – 80 per cent in urban areas, compared with 39 per cent in rural areas. Of the 2.6 billion people currently without access to basic sanitation, 2 billion live in rural areas. The urban-rural disparity is largest in South Asia, where 63 per cent of the urban population versus 27 per cent of the rural population is served. Only in industrialized countries is urban and rural coverage about the same.

Access to improved sanitation facilities, 2004.

Globally, 80 per cent of people living in urban areas and 39 per cent of people living in rural areas have access to improved sanitation facilities. The largest regional disparities are found in South Asia.