Posts tagged ‘right to water’

October 23, 2012

In Jalingo: safe water is scarce like petrol, and expensive as gold


By Ayodele Samuel,

Residents of Jalingo, Taraba State capital in Northern Nigeria, are groaning over the unending scarcity of portable water, writes AYODELE SAMUEL, a blogger at reports.

“Water, they say is life”, and the human body constitute of 70% of this liquid substance, as such water tops the priority list of the demand of mankind. 80% of diseases plaguing humanity are due to use or consumption of unsafe water.

It is generally believed that the accessibility of sufficient quantities of  portable water and safe sanitation facilities to a household determines the quality of life of the people and potential for poverty alleviation. This leads to the welfare improvement and is generally linked to a decrease in infant and maternal mortality, increase nutritional values and environmental hygiene.

In Jalingo, accessing portable water by residents remains a major battle forcing residents of the city to rely on local vendor popularly called Mai ruwa and few streams for water, while public water supply remained exclusive for the rich in the state.

Children at a bole hole n Jalingo

Wurom Musa, is a one of the slum communities in Jalingo, and is inhabited mainly by farmers and traders. Here the only source of water for domestic consumption is a local stream about 7 killometers  away. away. What would have served as a safer source of water supply- a two  hand-pump boreholes donated to the community 5 years ago,  had collapsed

In another slum community, Barade ward, there are tales of woes and anguish  whenever the Lamorde River, the only source of water in the area,  dries up, typically  during dry season. When this occurs, residents of the  community are left with no other option than to buy from ‘Mai Ruwa’ water vendors, whose source of water is unknown.

In another community, Agangagwasa, a resident, ,  Julian Bala narrated that getting water for domestic use is a major challenge.

“because here is a new area with plenty people, water is our problem, when the wells in the area  are dried up, it’s a difficult  to get water because, we trek long distance searching for water as if you are looking for petrol, its saddening because water board is not here”

Another resident, Mrs. Franca Osita told me that  she starts her day by searching for water, “I  have to wake up early and walk to   the stream to get water, or else buy from the water vendors and then prepare the children for school before resuming business, this is usually difficult for me”

She called on the government to show more concern to the untold suffering water scarcity has brought upon the people, by making provision for more boreholes and making sure that the taps are running again.

The Ward head of Mayo-Gwoi Village, in peri urban Jalingo, Mr. Aliyu Jassa, said the lack of access to portable water in the city is harming their health.

Due to lack of water from the taps, some of us depend largely on  Mai ruwa, and those who cannot afford to buy, have to depend on the river. Unfortunately we’ve had cases of cholera that have resulted to the loss of lives, especially pregnant women and children, I almost lost my children too, but thank God for quick intervention”

Hamman Yakubu a retired bank official, on his part lamented the hike in price of water by local vendors.  “Me and my family consume not less than three trucks a day at N200 per a truck of ten jerry-cans each, but we are at the mercy of the water vendors, who sometimes hike the price of the water at will,” adding that  it’s  too expensive for an average citizen in the state who earns less than N18, 000 per month, considering  other family expenses like sending the children to school.

Mr. Yakubu also noted that though there are pipes laid down for distribution to homes, but too expensive to embark upon, as it will cost N60,000 for the installation per home; adding  that the pipes have rusted due to non-usage resulting to  health hazard for the few consumers.

Other residents across the city bemoan the recurrent shortage of water andoverdependence for water supply on Mai ruwa whom sources of water is not known to the consumer.

Chairman of Taraba state water vendors, Mr. Muhamadu Ahmed said “there are over 20,000 members of the association scattered in various location of Jalingo”

Danlami Musa a water vendor said, he  sells as much as fifteen trucks a day and due to the high demand of the product he often have to go in search of water from the stream, stating that sometimes the water from the borehole is not sufficient to go round.

Secretary of the Association of water vendors in Jalingo, Mr. Iliya Jacob who had been in the business for more than 14 years said his service is an alternative to government.

“ I have been providing water for this entire area for 13 years, people troop in from distances to come here for water, sometimes we have to give them for free, as a humanitarian service, we see the untold hardship on our people, we regard our services as an alternative to the government, because most people cannot afford to buy trucks of water per day, there is no other option for getting portable water”  he added.

He identify causes of water scarcity in city as “dryness of well and stream majorly during dry season and well water  changing color during raining seasons, and sometimes due to the activity of the pumping machine, it drains water from the ground which often cause some temporal water shortage from the ground, and leads to dry wells.”

The Area Manager of Taraba Water Supply Board, Jalingo district,  Mr. Bitrus Bambur admitted to ravaging  water shortage in the city:

the product don’t seems to be available, however the government is doing its best to meet up with the challenges.“ The Government is doing its best, the Taraba water supply board is operational on a daily basis, but coverage is not much, due to the growing population of the city, the coverage area is presently at 32%,”

Some of the challenges facing the State Water Board according to investigation includes obsolete machines that needs renovation and replacements,  inadequate funding , deficiency in human resource development, and manpower that has reduced from 600 to 324 since the creation of the state.

Children searching for water on the streets of Jalingo

Other challenges according to Mr. Mambur, is the need to upgrade the facilities  for water distribution, stating that  only six out of the fourteen boreholes  in the Board are functional. Calling on the  the government to subsidize water supply, in the state  rather than putting  more money  in providing drugs, Mr Mambur said the proper funding of the Board and efficient supply of safe water will help prevent diseases.

A government official who does not want his name in print confirmed that that the State Government recently  accessed a loan from the African Development Bank, to enable it upgrade the water supply  coverage in the state from 32% to 75% .

The story is contributed by Ayodele Samuel, and published under the pro poor WASH stories project implemented by the Water and Sanitation Media Network Nigeria, with the support of West Africa WASH Media Network, WaterAid, and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

July 19, 2011

CSOs call on African Governments to implement the Right to Water and Sanitation

Babatope Babalobi in Kigali, Rwanda

Representatives of civil society organizations in Africa have called on National Governments to urgently implement the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.

Rising from a one day Civil Society Forum in Kigali, Rwanda as part of the on going Africa Sanitation and Hygiene Conference 3 (Africasan3),,  the civil society organizations organized under platform of the  African Civil Society Network for Water and Sanitation (ANEW)  also called for a clear timetable and measureable targets for achieving expenditure of 0.5% of GDP on sanitation (as per the eThekwini Declaration); separate budget lines for sanitation spending in national budgets;  and better targeting of resources towards countries with low sanitation coverage and a higher burden of sanitation related diseases.

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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