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Water and Sanitation in Urban and Rural Areas  

In Angola, most public water supply and sanitation systems were either destroyed during the civil war or have deteriorated over decades due to a lack of maintenance and investment. The results are low levels of access to safe water and sanitation services for the majority of the urban and rural population.

Construction of a latrine.
Source: Tump 2006
( click to enlarge )

There are highly diverging estimates of drinking water and sanitary coverage in Angola in urban and rural areas. The Angola Water Development Strategy Paper of 2003 (by the Ministry of Energy and Water) which refers to UNICEF figures concludes that in 2001, 62 % of the population had access to drinking water and 59 % to adequate sanitation (meaning access to organised sewerage systems or to latrines and septic tanks). These coverage rates are higher in urban areas, with 71 % for drinking water and 74 % for adequate sanitation, whereas the rural average coverage is 40 % and 25 % respectively. These rates are often seen as being excessively optimistic or over-estimates not taking into account inoperable outlets, restricted operational hours resulting from energy shortages and the lack of timely systems maintenance (SWECO Grøner 2005).

The following box contains excerpts from a World Bank assessment made in 2005. It illustrates the situation of water supply and sanitation in Angolan urban centres with a special focus on Huambo, the major urban centre located on the upper fringes of the Kunene River basin:

Water Supply and Sanitation in Urban Centres

The prolonged civil war and major movements of rural population into the main urban areas have placed increasing pressure on dilapidated and poorly maintained water supply and sanitation systems. The Water Sector and Sanitation Development Strategy (prepared by the National Directorate of Water (DNA) and the Ministry of Energy and Water (MINEA)) documents the water supply situation in 29 provincial capitals […other than Luanda as well as some secondary towns], which together constitute about 25 % (3.4 million) of the total population of Angola. Service coverage has declined from an estimated 75 % in 1990 to 51 % in 2000, of which only 16 % have piped household connections; the majority are dependent on chafarizes [communal standpipes where water is sold], standpipes, and truck-tank systems [...].

Although the figures indicate that the situation in other urban centres is [not better than] in the capital Luanda, most [...] do have the "safety valve” of groundwater being available. In Huambo, for example, families without access to piped supplies are often able to obtain water from hand-dug shallow wells, and therefore are not forced to buy water at very high prices from private vendors (as is the case in Luanda). Even those with house connections often supplement piped supplies with water from wells or boreholes. Development agencies have installed handpumps in various parts of Huambo and built accompanying infrastructure (sinks for washing clothes and bath rooms), thus providing a greater range of facilities to the residents than the chafarizes in Luanda […].

All of the other urban centres have severe financial problems with inadequate tariff levels, low billing rates, and very poor collection ratios. This leads to low levels of maintenance and continuing degradation of existing water supply assets […].

In terms of sanitation, besides Luanda, only four other cities (Huambo, Namibe, Lobito, and Benguela) have water-borne sewage systems, and in all cases, these only serve the central areas (17 % of the urban population) […]. In general, the systems are poorly maintained and dependent on inadequate government subventions. A mix of septic tanks and pit latrines serves the majority of the urban population, but many have no basic sanitation facilities.

Source: WB 2005

The majority of the population in the Kunene basin lives in rural areas. The special situation of water supply and sanitation in rural Angola is described in the box below.

Water Supply and Sanitation in Rural Areas

The National Directorate of Water (DNA) estimates that only 15 to 20 % of the rural population (approximately 6.1 million in 2002) have access to a safe water source, mainly from a network of more than 3 300 water points (largely boreholes with handpumps), of which up to 50 % could be out of operation due to lack of spare parts and regular maintenance. Therefore, a high proportion of the rural population is dependent on seasonal supplies of surface water that can involve significant distances to collect modest amounts of water […]. With regard to sanitation, DNA figures indicate that only 20 % of the rural population have access to basic sanitation facilities (mainly pit latrines adjacent to the home or communal facilities within 25 metres) (WB 2005). [This percentage proposed by the Worldbank report seems high, as normally fewer households have access to adequate sanitation than access to clean water].

Basin Provinces of Kunene and Namibe: The inhabitants of Kunene Province rely on a variety of water sources including the Kunene and Kaculuvar Rivers and their tributaries, boreholes and small dams and wells. Few boreholes (an estimated 50 out of the 350 sunk during the colonial period) are still operating, and water shortages are constant features of life for those living away from the primary rivers. [Namibe Province suffers from continuous water shortages, despite the existence of surface and groundwater reserves]. In the rural areas, just 50 of an estimated 348 boreholes are stil operating […]. A shortage of groundwater during recent droughts has led to extensive stock losses and has accelerated emigration from the rural areas (ERM 2009).

Sources: WB 2005 and ERM 2009




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View a historical timeline of the Kunene basin countries, including water agreements & infrastructure

Video scenes about the limited access to water of the San in Kunene Province