What is the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

Water. For most of us it is something we use throughout the day without even thinking about it. We wash with it. We clean our teeth with it. We cook with it. We buy it from the shops. We make beverages with it. We drink it. If we need water it’s there – on demand through our taps or in our shops. However, for many people around the world this is not the case. Something we often take for granted is a scarce resource that is becoming even more inaccessible and affects the lives of millions. Due to this, in 2010, the United Nations through the General Assembly passed what is known as Resolution 64/292 – the human right to water and sanitation. Inextricably linked, water and sanitation are considered imperative for the realisation of all human rights but what are they?

The human right to water and sanitation has a long history that started back in 1977. As recognition of the rights to water and sanitation became more mainstream, the connection between both water and sanitation became even more apparent. It is now understood that access to water and sanitation form the key aspects to being able to live a life in dignity and are also two important requirements needed to fulfill all other human rights.

The link between the two is integral to the success of both being realised for each and every individual. Poor sanitation causes contamination of water sources worldwide. Therefore a lack of good sanitation means that clean drinking water that is safe for human consumption is impossible to obtain until sanitation is improved. Safe water is also essential for health reasons and hygiene purposes. The right to water must be:

  • Acceptable,
  • Affordable,
  • Available for personal and domestic use,
  • Safe,
  • Sufficient, and,
  • Physically accessible.

While access to sanitation must be:

  • Affordable,
  • Culturally and socially acceptable,
  • Dignified and private,
  • Hygienic,
  • Physically available,
  • Safe, and,
  • Secure.

But what do these terms mean? Stating that water and sanitation must be ‘affordable,’ ‘safe,’ or, ‘sufficient’ etc. is all well and good but contextually it is lacking. Fortunately there is a further breakdown of what these terms entail:

Acceptable: Water must be acceptable to certain universal standards. For instance, it must be odourless, colourless and free from taste when it is being used personally and domestically. Water services and facilities must also respect cultures ensuring appropriateness for all while ensuring sensitivity to all genders, ages and the privacy of all individuals.

Affordable: The cost of water and its associated functions (access, facilities and services) should not be more than 3% of the annual household income.

Physically Accessible: Water must be accessible by all. This means that a water source must be within 1 kilometer from the home and must not result in a collection time that passes 30 minutes. Water must also be physically accessible in relation to any educational institutions, any places of work and any health institutions.

Safe: Water must be safe and clean for human consumption. This means that water must be free from any hazards such as chemicals or micro-organisms.

Sufficient: The supply of water must be enough (sufficient) and ongoing (continuous) for both domestic and personal use. This typically includes water for drinking, food preparation, personal cleaning and sanitation and washing of clothes.

The human right to water and sanitation must be afforded to all without discrimination regardless of race, gender, religion or any other factor. This means that access to water and sanitation is a universal right. However, despite being a recognised right since 2010, we still find ourselves in the midst of a water crisis. It is estimated that 663 million people do not have clean water1 and 1.8 billion people use water that is contaminated with faeces2. As climate change and global warming continue to change the landscape of the planet, access to water is becoming more difficult and more must be done to ensure that access to clean water and sanitation is possible for all.

All of the work that is undertaken at WellFound looks to ensure that local communities are able to reach clean water, access safe and hygienic sanitation facilities and grow a market garden. With history of working in Senegal and Burkina Faso, we are currently working in and raising further funds to help more communities in Guinea-Bissau. We are currently working in Binhome, Bissunga, Quedet and Tama. Please support us by donating here.


Footnotes:

1 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs391/en/
2 Ibid.

Sources:

http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/human_right_to_water.shtml

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *