Significant progress has been made across the world, particularly in improving drinking-water coverage, where the world is just ahead of its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. However, the picture is less positive for sanitation, where the world looks set to miss its MDG target by more than half a billion people. And progress on water and sanitation is far from uniform across the globe. There are still 45 countries where sanitation coverage is less than 50% and 30 countries where improved drinking water coverage is less than 75%. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa.
For example, in Burkina Faso, more than half the population still practises defecation in the open, the majority of those living in rural areas. However, the situation with regards to clean water is better. Though a quarter of people in rural areas don’t have access to an improved water source, fewer than 5% of urban dwellers are now without an improved water supply.
This is thanks to major changes in the operation of the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), which was nationalised and restructured in the 1990s. In addition, the building of the Ziga dam 45km from Ouagadougou, has provided a good water supply and by 2011, over a quarter of urban households had piped water. A mixture of government grants and loans from international providers such as the World Bank have made this possible and the World Bank now rates ONEA as one of the best-performing water companies in sub-Saharan Africa.
For the future, ONEA has pledged to target remaining areas without an improved water source and also the poorest families. It has already built over 17,000 wells and standpipes and is analysing various methods for making water affordable for poor households. There is also the challenge of bringing clean water to remote rural areas. Extending the coverage is vital in a country where water-borne illnesses are still among the top five causes of children being taken to a doctor.
But for now, many urban dwellers in Burkina Faso are thrilled to be joined to the country’s expanded water network. Speaking to IRIN, one resident in the capital said of his connection “even without electricity, having enough water can make you happy”.