20 January 2012
In a world population of 7 billion, 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation and 884 million do not have access to clean water, this despite the UN Human Rights Council affirming that water and sanitation are human rights.
Sub-Saharan Africa faces some of the worst deficits - 330 million people in the region lack access to clean water and 565 million lack access to proper sanitation facilities. People living in rural areas continue to be disproportionately underserved, as seven out of ten users of unimproved sanitation facilities live in rural areas.
As with many challenges in development, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by scarcities of clean water and adequate sanitation. Women are more than twice as likely as men to be responsible for water collection. On average, women in the developing world walk six kilometers each day to collect water, time which could be spent in school or at work. And studies show that more than half of girls who drop out of primary school in sub-Saharan Africa do so because of a lack of separate toilets and easy access to safe water. The effects of lack of access to water and sanitation have a macroeconomic impact as well. In total, the World Health Organization estimates that 40 billion working hours are spent collecting water each year in Africa - comparable to a year's labour for the entire workforce of France.
Even though water and sanitation scarcities will be exacerbated as new challenges such as climate change and urbanization emerge, the One.org website describes some encouraging signs of progress. The solutions to the problem are known and cost-effective
During the 18th Session of the Human Rights Council in Sep 2011, Franciscans International and WaterLex also delivered a joint oral statement on the Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, in which they called upon States to use the human rights–based planning developed by the Special Rapporteur to articulate the implementation of all their water related international legal obligations through a human rights-based water governance.