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In rural areas of Djibouti, Iraq and Morocco, coverage of improved drinking-water sources is less than 60 per cent.

The chart shows rural-area coverage in 2004.

Middle East/North Africa

Water is an increasingly precious commodity in this arid region, and as the population grows, the link between environmental degradation, water scarcity and conflict is becoming a mounting threat.

Although more than half the countries in the Middle East/North Africa with data sufficient to estimate trends are on track to meet the drinking-water target, in the region as a whole, access to improved drinking-water sources increased only marginally, from 86 per cent in 1990 to 88 per cent in 2004. And the number of people without access increased from 39 million to 44 million over this period. Among them, some 34 million live in rural areas, about the same number as in 1990. But there are almost twice as many urban dwellers without safe water in 2004 as there were in 1990.

There was slightly more progress in the region on sanitation coverage, from 68 per cent in 1990 to 74 per cent in 2004, with 87 million people gaining access – and the MDG sanitation target of 84 per cent is likely to be achieved. Over this period, however, the number of people without access actually increased, from 88 million in 1990 to 96 million in 2004. To reach the target, a further 107 million people must be reached by 2015.

Urban-rural disparity in sanitation coverage is sizeable, at 90 per cent and 53 per cent, respectively.

Conflict-related emergencies remain a major concern. The priority is to send drinking water directly to families in need and to rehabilitate damaged water and sanitation systems.

Egypt, Morocco and the Syrian Arab Republic had the largest increases in access to improved sanitation facilities in the Middle East/North Africa, 1990–2004.