Archive for June, 2011

June 14, 2011

Implementing the Right to Water In Nigeria


By Babatope Babalobi

The right to water places certain responsibilities upon governments to ensure that people can enjoy “sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water, without discrimination”.

Before now, several international human rights conventions state provisions which could amount to an explicit recognition of the right to water. For example the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child (CRC) states:

“Article 24 1. States parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health … 2. States parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: (c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia,  the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water

The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)  Article 14 (2) States: parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular shall ensure to women the right: … (h) To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.

However the most detailed definition of the content of the right to water came in 2002 from an expert body (CESCR) assesses the implementation of the ICESCR (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), a treaty only recognizing “implicitly” the right to water. This definition is detailed in General Comment 15 (hereafter GC 15), in which the Committee asserts:

The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water-related disease and to provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements.”

Following the publication of GC 15, several States agreed and formally acknowledged the right to water to be part of their treaty obligations under the ICESCR (cf. e.g. in Europe: Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands

An initial step towards political recognition of the right to water was taken in 2006  by the former United Nations Sub-commission on Human Rights which issued Guidelines .These guidelines led the United Nations Human Rights Council to mandate in 2008, Ms Catarina de Albuquerque, as an Independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

UN General Assembly’s Resolution on the Right to Water

On July 28, 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations in a landmark decision adopted a resolution calling on States and international organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.

By a text on the human right to water and sanitation, the Assembly expressed deep concern that some 884 million people were without access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion lacked access to basic sanitation.

Bearing in mind the commitment to fully achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it expressed alarm that 1.5 million children under five years old died each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases, acknowledging that safe, clean drinking water and sanitation were integral to the realization of all human rights.

That resolution was supported by a vote of 122 in favour to none against, with 41 abstentions. Nigeria was one of the 122 countries that voted in favour of this resolution.

UN Human Rights Council Resolution on the Right to Water

On Thursday, 30 September, the UN Human Rights Council by consensus adopted a resolution affirming that water and sanitation are human rights.

UN Human Rights Council – the main United Nations body dealing with human rights affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties, and that States have the primary responsibility to ensure the full realization of this and all other basic human rights.

While the General Assembly’s July resolution declared that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, it did not specify that the right entailed legally binding obligations.

The UN Human Rights Council’s resolution affirmed that water and sanitation are human rights, saying: “the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity’.

Next Steps

What is the implication of making the right to water and sanitation a human right- that is both justifiable and enforceable?

What is the responsibility of Nigeria National and State government towards the implementation and full realization of this essential right? How does Nigerians stand to benefit from this development?

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 does not presently have any provision on the right for water, but the Society for Water and Sanitation, Lagos State chapter, a network of civil society  groups working in the water and sanitation sector have launched an advocacy towards the implementation of the Right to water campaign in Nigeria.

Coordinator of the campaign, Anthonia Mbaka said the advocacy campaign is “ to ensure that the Nigerian government strengthens the implementation of the right to water and make it fully enforceable in our national laws, as in other countries like South Africa and Uruguay to guarantee every Nigerian citizen, access to safe and affordable water towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7, target 10.

Several other Civil Societies Organisations (CSOs) promoting water and sanitation issues in Nigeria have been calling on the Federal Government to implement the UN resolution on water.

Mr Hope Ogbeide, the Director of Society for Water and Public Protection, urges the Federal Government to commence the implementation of the UN resolution on the right to waterw by making tangible efforts to provide potable water and good sanitation facilities for Nigerians.

Ogbeide proposes a daily provision of 30 litres of water free of charge for every Nigerian.

He says that if that benchmark is achieved and sustained, Nigeria can progressively move from the provision of 30 litres to 50 litres of water per person — the minimum standard recommended by the UN for affluent countries.

“For example, every South African citizen has access to 25 litres of water daily free of charge,’’ Ogbeide says.

“The government should do something similar or decide how much to charge to ensure that every Nigerian, including the vulnerable ones, have access to safe water and good sanitation,’’ he adds.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Leo Atakpu, the National Coordinator of Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN), urges the Federal Government to enforce the UN resolution in the country.

He stresses that it will be a good starting point if Nigeria is able to provide 30 litres of water for a citizen each day since the dearth of water also affects sanitation.

Atakpu notes that human rights activists across the world, including those in Nigeria, celebrated the passage of the UN resolution on the people’s right to safe water and good sanitation.

“We are happy that Nigeria is a signatory to the resolution; we are going to engage in policy advocacy on the need for Nigeria to domesticate the right to water and sanitation,’’ he says.

“As I’m speaking to you, Nigeria is far from meeting the targets of the MDGs in the water and sanitation sector; implementing the resolution here in Nigeria will fast-track our efforts to meet the MDGs targets by 2015,’’ Atakpu adds.

On her part, Mrs Ada Oko-Williams, WaterAid’s Head of West Africa Regional Learning Centre on Sanitation, also urges the Federal Government to promote and implement the UN resolution on people’s right to safe water.

She urges the CSOs to create appreciable public awareness on the need to promote water as a social right which should be respected.

“The Federal Government, in collaboration with state and local governments, should provide adequate water for the citizens.

“I think the provision of safe water and basic sanitation should come first. Later, we can work on how to improve the situation and meet the UN standard on the amount of drinking water that should be provided for each citizen daily,’’ she adds.

However, Rev. Fr. Rapheal Aborisade, the Coordinator of Justice and Peace Commission, urges the Federal Government to repair derelict water facilities across the country, as part as part of its efforts to implement the UN resolution.

Aborisade argues that the large number of broken-down water facilities across the country has hindered effective water supply to the people.

He says that the development has also been militating against the country’s desire to meet the MDGs targets on water and sanitation by 2015.

All the arguments notwithstanding, analysts insist that Nigeria’s ability to implement the resolution largely depends on the commitment of the three tiers of government toward providing safe water and good sanitation for the citizenry.

The governments should develop and adopt a comprehensive approach that covers all the critical components of the water and sanitation sector, while initiating specific programmes of action, they add.

Babatope Babalobi is the General Secretary of the West Africa WASH Journalists Network



June 6, 2011

Report links improved Water and Sanitation services to effective AIDS treatment

                                                                                       By Babatope Babalobi

A Ventilated Improved Latrine

Improved access to WASH Though AIDS is  the most devastating global epidemic. However, a report has revealed that  many secondary diseases from which AIDS patients suffer are preventable through better hygiene.

Authored by Christine van Wijk  for the Loughborough University, UK, the report argues that  those infected by AIDS can stay healthy longer and able to continue work if they  have access to a nearby and reliable supply of water and improved sanitary latrines.

HIV/AIDS, the most devastating global epidemic ever, with Sub-Saharan Africa having the highest number of HIV positive individuals (29.4 million people), followed by South and South-East Asia (6 million).  Yet, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and governments cannot prevent transmission through vaccination. Prevention depends on people’s own sexual behaviour and that of others.

Arguing that there is a strong nexus between  HIV/AIDs  and access to improved water supply and sanitation services, the report states that

men, women and children with HIV/AIDS infection are highly susceptible to other diseases; Most of these are related to poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Diarrhoeas and various types of skin diseases are common secondary (or ‘opportunistic’) infections. The risk of getting malaria is also greater, and is worsened by poor drainage creating extra mosquito breeding places in and around communities.”

During their years of illness, AIDS patients are mainly cared for by relatives, friends and neighbours (home-based care). Easy access to a safe, reliable and sufficient water supply and basic sanitation in this stage is essential.

Hand washing with Soap before kills germs

For the caregivers, it greatly reduces the extra burdens which they already carry. For the patients, it means human dignity and basic access to personal hygiene. For example, over half of patients suffering from HIV/AIDS have chronic diarrhoea. Having a latrine nearby is then crucial. For mothers who are HIV positive, the risk of transmitting the virus through breast milk is 1:3. Irrespective of whether they can, or for various reasons cannot replace breastfeeding by bottle feeding, clean water is important for the babies’ care.

Within households, water is also needed for productive uses, to increase food security and maintain nutrition levels. This helps patients to stay healthy for a longer time and keeps the household’s income from falling so rapidly and deeply. Access to a plot and water for staple crops, vegetables and fruit for home consumption and marketing are especially crucial for poor families.

Service delivery

So far, HIV/AIDS has been treated as an epidemic rather than as (also) a chronic disease. The emphasis is on the medical aspects – treatment and prevention – and, to a very limited degree, on the socio-economic impacts. Neither the UN organizations nor country governments have looked at the implications for the water sector. Yet, the need for, and impact on, water supply and sanitation are great. Over one billion people lack a minimum supply of safe water and 2.4 billion people have no proper sanitation and many of them suffer from HIV/AIDS.

Service delivery is affected by situations within water and sanitation service organisations and by conditions on the ground. Within high prevalence countries, staff infection rates can be as high as 30%.

Eng. Samuel Wambua, the Executive Director of NETWAS International said at the 13th Regional Water and Sanitation Seminar in Nairobi in September 2001 that “…a scenario may arise when we will have few customers to provide water for, few effective service

Household filter..source of improved water supply

providers, few to provide labour, few experts to provide management and technical support in the sector.


The basic principles of developing sustainable community water supply and sanitation are eroded, when those with the disease and their caretakers are not able to participate in planning, decision making and implementation and cannot apply pressure to ensure that their special needs are met”


Christine van Wijk  in the report said that  “More robust water supplies, water treatment and sanitation systems requiring less (and less complex) maintenance and repairs, and more attention to home systems, including home treatment of drinking water, would make communities and households less dependent on outside support. Basic sanitation and enough water nearby for personal hygiene is crucial as 50% of patients suffer from chronic diarrhoea.

Where households have no safe water, or the supply is intermittent and breakdowns are long, SODIS, or solar disinfection of less safe water, is suitable for household use.

A transparent container such as a plastic bottle is filled with water from a nearby source with a lower water quality and closed. The caretaker places the container in strong sunlight. This will kill most bacteria when the water is exposed for a period of 4-6 hours in full sunlight, or an entire day when the sky is overcast.

The water is disinfected by UV rays, and in addition reaches a temperature of up to 50-60 degrees so it needs to cool down before use ( (WHO)

Recognizing hygiene in health education

Although some material exists health education is not yet addressing the chronic disease effects of HIV/AIDS infections. A case study in Limpopo province, South Africa, showed a lack of adjustment not only of water supply and sanitation services, but also of hygiene education.

The participating focus groups of caregivers and people living with HIV/AIDS identified good food and exercise as important ways of staying healthy longer. There were, however, no concerted efforts from the departments of water, health, agriculture and the communities to address production around homes and/or waterpoints for better nutrition. Poor sanitation was another problem that was insufficiently addressed.

The households in the case study saw drinking river water as a potential risk for catching cholera, but there was little awareness of the importance of personal and domestic hygiene behaviour for the patients’ health. The local health educators focused on the prevention of HIV/AIDS but did not address secondary diseases stemming from poor quality or inadequate water supply, hygiene and sanitation. (Kgalushi et al,).

Ways forward

Safe water, sanitation and hygiene are basic needs and human rights. They help those affected by HIV/AIDS to remain in good health for longer, facilitate care for ill patients and increase their dignity. Programmes and policy makers can give higher priority for water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion to areas with a high incidence of the disease.

Hygiene education needs to be integrated in the training given to home care volunteers and their trainers in order to ensure safe water handling practices.

As most caregivers are women, their influence on planning and implementation of service provision is more necessary than ever. Because often very young and very old women take over much of the water and sanitation related tasks, both hygiene education and technology selection may have to be adapted to suit their requirements.

Community based approaches are known to enhance sustainability and use. They can at the same time function as an entrance to promote community–based prevention and mitigation activities. The principles are the same, the issue at hand more sensitive. It requires well-trained, motivated and non-stigmatising facilitators. Experience with participatory methods exists and can be built on.

Water agencies are affected by the disease. This necessitates the development of policies and strategies within the agencies and for the sector. Agencies need an internal HIV/AIDS policy and strategy to mitigate impact on the agency and the development of a strategy to integrate HIV/AIDS in service provision.

In the sector, facilities are needed that require less frequent maintenance and repairs by outsiders and limited time and money from households to keep them going. Development of low-cost home treatment is an alternative.

A poverty alleviation framework can ensure that the socio-economic and equity aspects that play a role in water, sanitation and HIV/AIDS are addressed. As treatment becomes cheaper and more available, HIV becomes a chronic disease requiring a multi-pronged strategy for keeping those infected in good health and able to work. This includes more attention to personal hygiene and the means for hygiene preservation: access to adequate and safe water, good sanitation and hygiene education.

The report therefore called on Policy makers, programme planners and managers, donors and field workers  to treat HIV as a chronic disease and plan for better water supply, sanitation and hygiene to counteract the cruel impacts on people’s day-to-day health, work, income and dignity.

June 3, 2011

Sierra Leone: WASH situation in slums


The writer, Alie Sonta Kamara is a member of the Water and Sanitation Media Network in Sierra Leone


Life is the precious gift given unto man and other living things on Planet Earth by the Ever Divine Creator. Life being lived has a great connection to the surrounding nature, more so in creating and ensuring a habitable settlement in the form of communities, which if not properly monitored will pose serious health hazards.

This is very true of certain communities in the world today. Such horrific scenes are apparently being evidenced in certain localities in Sierra Leone, like the Bomeh Dumpsite, Kroo Bay, and Mabela where poverty, hardship and very unhygienic and uninhabitable conditions are quite apparent, with poor eating habits, unclean drinking water, offensive stench of defecations in the open and many more horrendous images constituting dangerous impediments to the society as a whole as well as individual human life.

Freetown is populated with people from every corner of the country.  Finding a healthy abode in Freetown has become increasingly difficult, with the high cost of rent very scary leading to many forced to live in shanty communities so as to be within the ambits of the city where they believe they can make life worthwhile. These communities lack many life-boosting facilities and thus do not match the required standards of human habitation.

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