Tag Archives: right to sanitation

Ghana: only 0.1% of budget committed to sanitation

In spite of the Government’s pledge to commit 0.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to sanitation, the 2011 budget made provision for 0.1%, said Executive Secretary of the Coalition of NGOs in water and sanitation (CONIWAS), Mr Benjamin Arthur. Ghana is one of the signatories of the 2008 eThekwini Declaration in which 17 African governments pledged to allocate a minimum of 0.5% of GDP for sanitation and hygiene.

Arthur said despite the government’s 2010 promise to commit 200 million dollars every year towards water and sanitation activities beginning in 2011, this year’s budget did not reflect that commitment.

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South Africa: landmark ruling on right to sanitation ends Cape Town “toilet wars”

With a high court ruling supporting South Africa’s constitutional right to sanitation, Cape Town’s “brutal – and farcical – toilet wars” have come to an end. Protesters from the Makhaza neighbourhood of the black township Khayelitsha, that was at the centre of the dispute, greeted the court decision with cheers.

Activists queue outside the Cape Town mayor Dan Plato's office on Freedom Day, 27 April 2011 to demand better access to basic sanitation in Khayelitsha and other informal settlements. Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht / Sapa

On 29 April 2011, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the city government must build enclosures around government-provided toilets in Makhaza, ending a two-year dispute that had become a heated political issue between the country’s two largest political parties.

It might seem like a small matter, but with local elections planned for May 18 [2011] across the country, the court decision is likely to become a matter of national political discussion, if not significance. Cape Town is run by South Africa’s second-largest political party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), an opponent of the ruling African National Congress (ANC)

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CALL TO ACTION: Supporting sustainable slum sanitation – the case for more investment from IFIs and donors

To mark World Water Day 2011, WSUP (Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor) has released a Call to Action urging governments, funding institutions and other decision-makers worldwide to invest now in urban sanitation.

Call to Action

Sanitation-related diseases are having a profound negative impact on the health and wellbeing of millions of children in cities throughout Africa and South Asia. Investing in sanitation is one of the most cost-effective means of improving child health. We need a global programme to support investment in urban sanitation, and we need it now.

WSUP is a tri-sector partnership between the private sector, civil society and academia focused on addressing the increasing global problem of inadequate access to water and sanitation for the urban poor and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, particularly those relating to water and sanitation. www.wsup.com

Canada: First Nations chief wants UN to investigate right to water violation

Geordie Rae from St.Theresa Point First Nation dumps a slop pail full of sewage in a dump outside his home. Winnipeg Free Press

Leaders of First Nations (indigenous peoples) from northern Manitoba want the United Nations to investigate the violations of rights imposed by the lack of water.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper told a Senate committee hearing Tuesday [15 February 2011] the lack of running water in more than 1,000 homes in northern Manitoba is a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

Living in “Third World conditions”, families in the Island Lake region of Manitoba “have less water every day than people in refugee camps”.

Many people in the Island Lake region get by on 10 litres per day, usually lugged by family members in pails from local water pipes. Additional water comes in untreated from lakes and rivers that have tested positive for contaminants including E. coli.

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Rights to water and sanitation: a handbook for activists

Book coverEl-Jazairi, L. (2010). Rights to water and sanitation: a handbook for activists. London, UK, Freshwater Action Network (FAN). vi, 86 p. : 1 fig., 5 tab., photogr.

With a foreword by Catarina de Albuquerque, United Nations Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Download handbook [PDF file, 1 MB]

The purpose of this handbook is to help civil society and those working on water and sanitation issues to adopt a human rights-based approach to advocacy, so that they can improve water and sanitation service regulation and provision at international, national and local levels. Directed primarily at community groups, human rights NGOs, rights-based development practitioners and aid workers, this handbook aims to strengthen human rights-based advocacy by providing innovative and practical suggestions that activists and organisations can use in their work. It also acts as a resource guide for finding further information.

The handbook begins with a brief introduction to the legal basis and content of the human right to water and sanitation and the obligations that governments and other actors hold. Chapter 2 introduces the reader to the steps necessary in planning an advocacy campaign. Chapter 3 describes a number of different advocacy ‘tactics’ or ‘activities’ that could be used on an advocacy campaign, including: lobbying; using media and communications; public campaign/popular mobilisation; capacity building; legal advocacy/litigation; and building networks and coalitions. For each tactic or activity a case study is provided. An appendix includes a list of international commitments, an example of a press statement and a lobbying letter, a list of resources.

Related web site: The Rights to Water and Sanitation

UN Human Rights Council affirms that right to water and sanitation is legally binding

The UN Human Rights Council has finally recognised the right to water and sanitation as legally binding in international law, in a landmark decision adopted on 30 September 2010.

[T]he UN affirmed [...] by consensus that the right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, which is contained in several international human rights treaties. While experts working with the UN human rights system have long acknowledged this, it was the first time that the Human Rights Council has declared itself on the issue.

According to the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, “this means that for the UN, the right to water and sanitation, is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding”. She added that “this landmark decision has the potential to change the lives of the billions of human beings who still lack access to water and sanitation.”

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India, New Delhi: rights of children violated at Commonwealth Games building sites

Children of over 400,000 construction workers at the Commonwealth Games sites are deprived of basic rights like sanitation, schooling and healthcare, said a report released by NGO Child Relief and You (CRY) on 4 August 2010.

“We found children living in the workers’ temporary camps living without quality food, safe water, sanitation, quality formal schooling or daycare, healthcare and a safe environment – basically without a childhood,” CRY director Yogita Verma said.

Children are dropping out of school due to poverty-linked migration to work at the construction sites, the NGO said.

A woman greets her children as she arrives at her temporary tent dwelling after a day's work. Photo: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

At one construction site at Siri Fort, a sample study found that none of the children attend school.

“Sanitation facilities are almost non-existent, with mobile toilets in some places not cleaned. There are no facilities for childcare like anganwadis at or near the site,” it highlighted.

“Housing conditions are very poor with tin and plastic sheets being used as housing materials,” it added

An estimated 415,000 contract daily wage labourers are working on the six Commonwealth Games venue clusters and five standalone venues.

CRY has told the Delhi government that special attention must be paid to the needs and rights of children of construction workers, especially to secure housing, drinking water, sanitation, healthcare and education.

The Commonwealth Games have been under scrutiny for their spiralling costs (estimated at US$ 2.5 billion), allegations of corruption, and the eviction of over 100,000 poor families.

The Games are being held in New Delhi from 3-14 October 2010.

Source: Economic Times, 04 Aug 2010 ; Mitu Sengupta, CounterPunch, 30 Jul – 01 Aug 2010

Threat to remove Right to Sanitation from UN resolution, says FAN

The Freshwater Action Network (FAN) says there is talk of removing sanitation from a United Nations draft resolution on the human right to water and sanitation. Bolivia submitted the resolution that was due to be discussed on 7 July 2010.

[T]hroughout the negotiations there has been talk of removing sanitation and focusing only on water. This would mean that the United Nations deliberately decided not to acknowledge sanitation as a human right.

FAN says the text of the resolution will by finalised by mid-July 2010.

FAN called on its network members to ask their government representatives to lobby at the UN to ensure that sanitation was not removed from the draft resolution.

Read the full blog post by FAN’s Advocacy Action and Learning Officer Kolleen Bouchane (06 Jul 2010).

Kenya, Nairobi: lack of sanitation leaves women sick and “prisoners in their homes”

Women and girls in Nairobi’s slums live under the constant threat of sexual violence, leaving them often too scared to leave their houses to use communal toilet and bathroom facilities, Amnesty International said in a new report released on 7 July 2010.

Amnesty International calls on the Kenyan government to enforce landlords’ obligations to construct toilets and bathrooms in the slums and settlements and provide assistance to structure owners who are unable to meet the costs of constructing toilets and bathrooms.

Insecurity and Indignity: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya [1] details how the failure of the government to incorporate the slums in urban plans and budgets has resulted in poor access to services like sanitation, which hits women in slums and informal settlements especially hard.

“Women in Nairobi’s settlements become prisoners in their own homes at night and some times well before it is dark,” said Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty Internationals East Africa researcher. “They need more privacy than men when going to the toilet or taking a bath and the inaccessibility of facilities make women vulnerable to rape, leaving them trapped in their own homes.

“The fact that they are unable to access even the limited communal toilet facilities also puts them at risk of illness.”

The situation is compounded by the lack of police presence in the slums and when women fall victim to violence they are unlikely to see justice done. Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and home to up to a million people, has no police post.

“I always underestimated the threat of violence,” said 19-year-old Amina of Mathare slum. “I would go to the latrine any time provided it was not too late. This was until about two months ago when I almost became a victim of rape.”

Amina was set upon by a group of four men while she walked to the latrine at 7pm. They hit her, undressed her and were about to rape her when her cries were heard and a group of residents came to save her. Although she knew one of the men involved in the assault, Amina did not go to the police as she feared reprisal attacks.

Unable to leave their one-roomed houses after dark, many women in informal settlements resort to ‘flying toilets’ – using plastic bags thrown from the home to dispose of waste.

Women also told Amnesty International how the poor sanitary conditions they live in – which include widespread disposal of human excreta in the open because of lack of adequate access to toilets – directly contribute to cases of poor health and to high health care costs.

Other women describe the humiliation of bathing in front of their relatives and children.

Even by day, public bathroom facilities are few and far between and invariably involve walking long distances. According to official figures, only 24 per cent of residents in Nairobi’s informal settlements have access to toilet facilities at household level.

Despite some positive features, Kenya’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) policies to meet the target on sanitation do not address the specific needs of women who face the threat of violence because they lack adequate sanitation.

They also do not address the lack of enforcement of regulations requiring owners and landlords to provide sanitation.

“There is a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums everyday” said Godfrey Odongo.

“Kenya’s national policies recognise the rights to sanitation and there are laws and standards in place. However, because of decades of failure to recognize slums and informal settlements, planning laws and regulations are not enforced in these areas.

“The lack of enforcement of these laws has ensured that landlords and structure owners in the slums can get away without providing any toilets or shower places for their tenants”

Lack of security of tenure also remains a long standing problem for tenants, despite a national land policy in place, removing any incentives that landlords or owners could have to ensure proper sanitation, and measures to increase security.

Amnesty says the government must also take immediate measures to improve security, lighting and policing and ensure that relevant government authorities coordinate their efforts to improve the water and sanitation situation in the settlements.

Amnesty representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Health, the City Council including the Town Clerk, and also some officials from the official regulator of water and sanitation services within Nairobi, the Athi Water Services Board.

In almost all of the meetings, it was agreed that there was little coordination between the relevant Ministries in the government to ensure that women in slums had access to water and sanitation.

Even though Amnesty recognised that the situation is complicated, representatives stressed that this is no reason to pass the buck from one Ministry to the next.

Some of the officials committed to asking the Office of the Prime Minister to bring together all of the relevant officials in an attempt to ensure that water and sanitation is provided for women in slums.

[1] Amnesty International (2010). Insecurity and indignity : women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. London, UK, Amnesty International Publications. Download full report

The report is one of the outputs of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign

Source: Amnesty International, 07 Jul 2010 ; Amy Agnew, Livewire, 07 Jul 2010

U.N. rights experts call for proper toilets in prisons

People held in jails and other detention centres around the world frequently have no access to clean toilets; a violation of their basic human rights, three United Nations investigators said Wednesday.

In statements marking World Toilet Day, marked on November 19 since 2001, they said states and governments had the obligation to ensure that all prisoners could enjoy safe sanitation.

“Without it, detention conditions are inhumane, and contrary to the basic human dignity that underpins all human rights,” the investigators — on torture, access to water and sanitation, and the right to the best possible health, declared jointly.

World Toilet Day is promoted by the World Toilet Organization, founded in 2001 by Singapore entrepreneur Jack Sim as a global non-profit network aiming to improve sanitation and public health policies.

“In too many places, detainees in prisons, migrant detention centres, juvenile institutions, psychiatric hospitals and other state-run institutions are forgotten,” said Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Anand Grover, rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, said unsanitary conditions “directly cause many diseases rife in places of detention.

“Access to sanitation is fundamental for a life in dignity, which all people are entitled to,” declared Catarina de Albuquerque, U.N. independent expert on human rights and access to sanitation.

“Even those convicted of heinous crimes must enjoy such basis rights,” she added.

Read the full OHCHR World Toilet Day statement.

Source: Jon Hemming, Reuters, 19 Nov 2009 [based on the UN news press release]