Water: A Human Right?

Clean Water Bags for Sale in Bo, Sierra Leone
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Water is unavailable to far to many people in this world, 1 billion to be exact (the world population is 6 billion).

The UN recently declared that clean water and sanitation is a basic human right. I never knew it wasn't considered a human right, it seemed pretty obvious to me! Apparently, it's now a government's responsibility to ensure that its citizens have access  to safe water.

The World Health Organization (WHO) came out with a great publication detailing the current water crisis and what the recent declaration will mean for those without access to water now. Their report states that there are currently 1.1 billion people who do not have access to clean water with the majority, not surprisingly, in Asia and Africa. Of the 1.1 billion without clean water, 63% are from Asia, 28% from Africa, 7% from Latin America, and 2% from Europe. 

WHO also said that the world's government now have three responsibilities: to respect existing water access, to regulate third parties, and to move forward to ensure access to clean water is available for everyone. 

It is obvious that the poor will be most effected by this recent declaration; however, women and children will also (hopefully) be profoundly impacted. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, 70% of them are women. 

I found it interesting to know that 122 nations voted in favor for making water a human right while 41 abstained. The U.S., Australia, UK, Canada and several developing nations abstained. Although they didn't vote no, I think abstaining is the same thing. My belief is that they didn't want to be labeled 'water haters'. Why would they not vote to make water a human right? I suppose it doesn't surprise me that developed nations like the US and some in Europe voted to abstain, but why would countries Kenya and Ethiopia abstain? They too face water shortages. (check out the full list of countries who abstained)

I hope more people will gain access to water now; however, I'm curious as to the timeline that the UN has given this. How long (if ever?) will it be until everyone has access to clean water and sanitation? With Israelis contaminating Palestinian water supplies and the Janjaweed doing the same to the Darfuris, I'm dubious as to whether much difference will be made. Human rights violations are taking place in several nations around the world, and I'm doubtful if those governments will care to make sure their citizens have access to clean water.

Being someone who has seen the result that unclean drinking water has on children, I can only hope that this makes a difference. Water, being the basis of all life, should not be a luxury. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what all this means.
Young Girl Collecting Water In Sierra Leone


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