MOZAMBIQUE: Hoping to reach the MDG on water

MACHAZE, 21 September 2010 (IRIN) - Every day Ster Mamboza, 37, covers 19 km on a bicycle over sand and gravel roads to the well at Machaze, in the southern Mozambican province of Manica, carrying two 20-litre plastic water containers and a two-month-old baby. It's quite a balancing act.

The better part of her day is spent fetching water from this well, the nearest safe source in the area, "even when I am sick", because "we need water for everything we do in life. I only leave the baby at home when it is really hot, but I get anxious because sometimes it takes me more than six hours to get back," she told IRIN.

Other women waiting their turn at the well, like Kessina Muchanga, said they had come from villages up to 40 km away and spent well over 8 hours a day fetching water. "Sometimes I leave home at four in the morning and only get back at five in the afternoon. My two daughters always come with me so that between us we can bring back 120 litres - I have a family of eight," she told IRIN.

Poor access to safe water and adequate sanitation facilities lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea, a major cause of mortality, particularly among children.

"I would prefer to spend less time fetching water so that I could do other things, like enter an adult education programme or start a business to contribute to our household income," Mamboza said.

Off target

Although there have been improvements in recent years, government figures show that only 43 percent of Mozambicans have access to safe water, and a scant 19 percent have access to improved sanitation.

The situation in rural areas - where over 70 percent of the estimated 22 million people live - is worse than in urban areas, and only 30 percent have access to safe water and just 6 percent have access to improved sanitation.

A 2009 joint assessment by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, and the National Directorate of Water, found that main source of water for 36 percent of the population was unprotected wells.

These figures indicate that Mozambique will be hard pressed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of "To Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation." According to the UN MDG monitor, Mozambique is "off track" for the whole of goal 7, which is to "Ensure environmental sustainability".

Conditions in Machaze district reflect those in other parts of the country: of the 98 boreholes and wells to supply a population of 105,000 only 57 are in operation. On average over 1,842 people depend on a single source, while government policy stipulates that only 500 people should benefit from each water point.

Taking aim

To improve its chances of reaching the water-related MDG targets, in March 2010 government launched the National Rural Water and Sanitation Programme (PRONASUR) with a budget of US$300 million to ensure that 70 percent of the population has access to clean water by 2015, and 50 percent can access basic sanitation. The programme includes building 12,000 new water sources to benefit an additional 4.5 million Mozambicans.

"Water has always been a problem in here," said Matchaze district administrator Gabriel Machate. "This year we should have built 30 new boreholes but bureaucratic issues delayed the plans."