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Officials Say Project Will Mean Safe Drinking Water for Almost One Million People in Mali

The African Development Bank pledged more than $50 million on Wednesday to improve the drinking water supply in Mali. According to a recent report, half of Mali's rural population does not have access to safe drinking water. Ricci Shryock files from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

The African Development Bank has announced a multi-million dollar investment plan to bring safe drinking water to seven percent of Mali's population. Chief of Operations for The African Development Bank's office in Mali, Mamadou Ba, says they expect the project will take five years to complete.

"The water and sanitation improvements will reach three areas of Mali and nearly one million people," Ba added. He says the project's success depends heavily on the people who live in these regions.

Ba says although they will not be asked to contribute financially, they must help with physical labor, such as drilling the wells.

The West African country has been a leader in water and sanitation improvement, says the UN Children's Fund's West and Central African advisor for Water and Sanitation, Chris Cormency.

"We see that Mali is one of the most impressive countries in the region," he said.

Cormency adds that since 1990, 49 percent of Malians who did not have access to safe drinking water now do. He says there is still a large difference between rural and urban populations, though.

Less than half of those people living in rural Mali have access to safe drinking water, but Cormency says the newest project from The African Development Bank has proven a reliable ally for development on the continent.

"It definitely will make an impact," he said. "They are doing quite a lot of water work in the region. In all of Africa for that matter."

The three areas where the project will take place are in the Gao, Koulikoro and Segou regions of the country.