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Fact of the week



36%: The percentage increase in population served with improved drinking water sources in urban areas from 1990 to 2004

Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Target: Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Analysing the urban and rural coverage trends, it is clear that most of the effort towards the achievement of the MDG drinking water target will occur in urban areas. Perhaps governments are prioritizing urban development of drinking water because of the appalling hygiene conditions under which many slum dwellers live, which are an affront to human dignity and pose a huge health risk for an already vulnerable population. Increased overcrowding, a continuing absence of sanitary facilities, poor waste disposal and a lack of sufficient quantities of water for basic personal and domestic hygiene all contribute to an ever present risk of outbreaks of epidemic diarrhoeal diseases.

However, rural development of drinking water still lags far behind urban development, so efforts and investments need to be intensified to decrease the backlog of rural people who remain unserved and reduce the huge health risks brought about by the absence of improved drinking water infrastructure in rural areas.


The urban population served with improved drinking water sources saw an increase of nearly 36% from 1990 to 2004. Despite this major effort, the number of urban people unserved is increasing over time.

Since 1990, there has been an increase of 24% in the number of rural people with access to an improved source of drinking water, and the backlog of rural unserved is decreasing over time. Despite this huge effort, the proportion of the rural population unserved is still exceedingly high (27%).

Source: UNICEF & WHO, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade, Switzerland, 2006.



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