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The United Nations led a chorus of demands yesterday to put water supplies in the world's poorest continent.
Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of the UN Center for Human Settlements, said: "Nearly all African cities do not have adequate drinking water. In cities, up to 60 percent of the people live in unplanned settlements, where more often than not there is not a single tap."
Water is one of the key issues at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, which opened in Johannesburg yesterday.
Tibaijuka said: "We have to redress this immediately. Water is life. Such a situation gives rise to sanitation problems which lead to infant mortality, health problems and social resentment."
The urban poor in Africa largely bought water from vendors "paying five to 20 times the rates paid by the rich", she said.
Tibaijuka said that the UN agency launched an initiative in 1997 with funding provided by the UN Foundation, created by media mogul Ted Turner, to improve water supplies in eight African cities Accra, Abidjan, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Lusaka and Nairobi.
She said that the agency wanted to expand the program to include eight other cities.