YESTERDAY was World Water Day. This annual United Nations (UN) observance highlights the importance of freshwater and advocates the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Nine years ago the UN 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 was a landmark declaration that sent an important signal to the world. After all, almost 900 million people worldwide didn’t have access to clean water.
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.