The age-old trek of African women to collect water from distant rivers and dirty ponds is once more a feature of the continent. Millions of women must take the old paths through the bush because an estimated 50,000 recent boreholes, pumps and wells installed with foreign aid are lying derelict for want of basic maintenance.
So claims a new report presented last week at the World Water Forum, a triennial summit, in Istanbul, Turkey.
"It is not enough to drill a well and walk away," says report author Jamie Skinner of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. "You can rarely declare 'job done' with any confidence."
He estimates $300 million of investment has been wasted, undermining the UN Millennium Development Goal of bringing clean water to half of the world's estimated billion people still without it.
"In the Menaka region of Mali, 80% of wells are dysfunctional," Skinner reports. "In northern Ghana, 58% require repair."