The Rural-Urban Divide in Water Quality in Honduras

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SEATTLE — Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with more than two-thirds of the population living in poverty in 2016. In rural areas, one in five live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day. Water quality in Honduras has improved notably since the 1990s, but there is still a sizable chunk of the population without access to potable water or sanitation services, particularly in rural areas.

According to a 2014 World Bank report, more than 2.2 million people throughout Honduras lack access to hygienic sanitation services and one million people cannot access safe drinking water. Disproportionately, 66 percent of those without hygienic sanitation and 80 percent of Hondurans unable to access safe drinking water, live in rural areas. The rural-urban divide is particularly pronounced when it comes to drinking water quality in Honduras. The percentage of the population with access to safe drinking water is near universal in urban areas, at 96 percent, compared with 81 percent in rural areas.

Like many countries, Honduras has seen large-scale urban migration over the last 25 years. According to data from the World Bank, the percentage of people living in rural areas decreased from 60 percent in 1990 to just 45 percent in 2015. Despite rural communities being worse off than urban areas on a comparable basis, the proportion of the urban population with access to better water quality has actually declined since the 1990s. Investment in water and sanitation services has not been sufficient to maintain coverage for the increasing urban population, and this lack of investment disproportionately affects poorer residents in Honduran cities.

The World Bank report highlights major country-wide funding deficits between required and planned investments in both sanitation and drinking water infrastructure. The government target is to ensure 95 percent drinking water and sanitation coverage by 2022. To achieve this goal, additional annual investments of $157 million and $193 million need to be made in water and sanitation services, respectively.

Despite the current issues, water and sanitation services in Honduras have markedly improved since the 1990s. Nationwide, the population without access to improved potable water services decreased by 46 percent from 1990 to 2010, and the population without access to improved sanitation services decreased by more than 50 percent in the same period. The country was also able to achieve its Millennium Development Goal of ensuring access to improved water and sanitation services for 88 percent and 75 percent of the population, respectively, by 2015.

Not having access to clean water and sanitation services severely impedes economic progress and social development. Water and sanitation services are fundamental human needs, and limited access exacerbates the cycle of poverty. It is, therefore, crucial for the government to continue to invest in sanitation and water quality in Honduras and reduce the inequalities and disparities that exist between urban and rural residents.

Michael Farquharson

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Michael Farquharson

Michael writes for The Borgen Project from Madison, WI. His academic interests include international relations, economics, current affairs and politics. Michael was born in France, grew-up in the U.K. and now lives in the U.S.A.. He also has a passion for cooking.

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