An essential right

THE ILOILO provincial government inaugurated recently the Level 3 Water System Project in Barangay Nasapahan, Lemery. The project cost P825,000 and would benefit around 40 households. Water would be sourced from the mountain area. It was implemented in two phases and was part of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project of the provincial government. For years villagers braved difficult terrain to fetch water.

Six years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation was a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. The declaration was of global significance. It sent an important signal to the world. After all, almost 900 million people worldwide didn’t have access to clean water. It was good that the 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations member-states and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone.

An estimated 884 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies indicate that an absence of clean water or sanitation exacts a huge human toll. About 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

With almost a billion people suffering from lack of access to an improved water source, and twice that number without access to improved sanitation, recognition of the human right to water and sanitation is a positive signal from the international community and shows its commitment to tackle these issues.

So what has the Philippine government done since the UN made its sterling declaration? Although the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is not part of the Declaration of Human Rights, the declaration lent moral and symbolic force to the provision in the policies of individual countries. It is also a stinging indictment of our government. Its neglect is a violation of the right of millions Filipinos.


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