Despite significant progress over the years, only half of Mozambicans have access to improved water supply and less than a quarter (one in five) use improved sanitation facilities.
Overall, glaring inequities persist in water and sanitation services between people who live in rural and those who live in urban areas.
Nationally, although the proportion of people without access to improved water sources declined from 65 per cent in 1990 to 49 per cent in 2015, disparities between those without coverage in rural and in urban areas are marked, estimated at 64 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. Moreover, in rural areas, one in five use surface water as their primary drinking water source.
At 36 per cent, Mozambique has one of the highest open defecation rates in sub-Saharan Africa. And as much as 76 per cent of the population do not have or do not use improved sanitation facilities: 88 per cent in rural areas, and 53 per cent in urban and peri-urban areas.
Although rural areas are most affected by the lack of basic WASH services, even the moderately positive urban WASH indicators mask serious service gaps for the poor in fast-growing cities and towns where lack of systematic maintenance, low investment and unclear institutional mandates have hindered service delivery.
Geographic disparities also exist, with services generally weaker in northern provinces. For example, in the southern province of Maputo, about 87.1 per cent of the population access safe water and 70.1 per cent access and use improved sanitation compared to the northern province of Zambézia, one of the country’s most populous provinces, where only 30.6 per cent access safe water and 13.0 per cent access and use improved sanitation. WASH in schools and at health facilities remains unknown. Frequent natural disasters, which are being exacerbated by climate change, are also a huge challenge. They continue to have a devastating impact on millions of Mozambicans.
Climate change also threatens the availability and quality of the country’s freshwater resources, both surface and ground water. Young children are most at risk from poor WASH conditions. Although Mozambique has seen progress in the reduction of under-five mortality, diarrhoeal diseases remain amongst the leading causes of death among children. Additionally, strong evidence indicates that WASH is an essential intervention to reduce undernutrition; this is particularly pertinent in Mozambique where 43 per cent of children under 5 years of age are severely or moderately stunted.
Women and girls are also particularly affected by poor access to water and sanitation. Besides having a detrimental impact on their health, poor access to WASH for girls threatens their security, well-being, education, and contributes to a loss of dignity and threat of sexual assault due to a lack of toilets, both in times of emergency and stability. Also, children with disabilities are denied access to a school education when accessible WASH facilities are unavailable or inadequate.
Additionally, population growth and rapid urbanization will soon put an even greater pressure on WASH services. The urban population of Mozambique may reach 50 per cent by 2025. Cities and their poorly served peri-urban areas are magnets for rural migrants. Also, growing rural towns of up to 50,000 inhabitants represent roughly 15 per cent of the total urban population and will require much greater investments.