Cameroon has been fully engaged with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since their inception in 2000. This paper examines the situation of access to potable water and sanitation in Cameroon within the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), establishes whether Cameroon is on the track of meeting the MDGs in these domains and proposes actions to be taken to bring it closer to these objectives. Based on analyzed data obtained from national surveys, government ministries, national statistical offices, bibliographic research, reports and interviews, it argues that Cameroon will not reach the water and sanitation MGDs. While Cameroon is not yet on track to meet the targets of the MDGs for water and sanitation, it has made notable progress since 1990, much more needs to be done to improve the situation, especially in rural areas. In 2006, 70% of the population had access to safe drinking water and the coverage in urban centres is 88%, significantly better than the 47% in rural areas. However, rapid urbanization has rendered existing infrastructure inadequate with periurban dwellers also lacking access to safe drinking water. Sanitation coverage is also poor. In urban areas only 58% of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, and the rate in rural areas is 42%. Women and girls shoulder the largest burden in collecting water, 15% of urban and 18% rural populations use improved drinking water sources over 30 minutes away. Cameroon faces the following challenges in reaching the water and sanitation MDGs: poor management and development of the resources, coupled with inadequate political will and commitment for the long term; rapid urbanization; urban and rural poverty and regulation and legislative lapses. The authors propose that: bridging the gap between national water policies and water services; recognizing the role played by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the attainment of MDGs; developing a Council Water Resource Management Policy and Strategy (CWARMPS); organizing an institutional framework for the water and sanitation sector as well as completion and implementation of an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plan, would bring Cameroon closer to the water and sanitation MDGs.
Keywords: access, Cameroon, Millennium Development Goals, potable water, sanitation