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After expanding access to water, Namibia must focus attention on the right to sanitation, says UN expert

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, on Monday called on the Government of Namibia to extend the progress it has made in increasing access to water, and to apply it to the expansion of sanitation.

At the end of a week-long visit to the country, the UN human rights expert on water and sanitation noted that Namibia has, over the past 20 years, achieved significant progress in extending its water network across the country.

“It is time for sanitation to get the same attention.” she said, adding that Namibia would have to make an important choice between wet and dry sanitation.

“Wet sanitation risks making unaffordable water even more unaffordable. In the dry climate of Namibia, wet sanitation uses precious water, while dry sanitation offers a more sustainable path forward. However, dry sanitation solutions will only work with widespread awareness raising efforts.”

Albuquerque noted that access to improved water sources appeared to be very high, especially in urban areas, but that water points were still far away from households and water remained too expensive.

“When water is too expensive, those with lower incomes are forced to make unacceptable trade offs – choosing between water and medicine or food for their child, for instance,” she said.

The expert stressed that access to water and sanitation are human rights. While this does not mean that water and sanitation must be offered free of charge, it means that systems must be in place to ensure access for those who face economic barriers to access.

Albuquerque said community participation in the design and implementation of water and sanitation projects was indispensable.

“Communities have important perspectives which must be taken into account in the design and implementation of water and sanitation projects,” she said. “They also play an important role in monitoring quality.”

The expert visited Namibia from 4 to 11 July. She was received by the Prime Minister, representatives from Government ministries, the private sector and civil society. She also visited informal settlements in Windhoek, the Windhoek central prison, as well as communities in Outapi and Epupa. As a result of this visit, Albuquerque will prepare a report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012, describing her main findings and providing recommendations. This was the first mission by a UN human rights expert to Namibia.

* To read the full statement delivered by the Special Rapporteur, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11223&LangID=E

ENDS

Catarina de Albuquerque is a Portuguese lawyer currently working as a senior legal adviser at the Office for Documentation and Comparative Law (an independent institution under the Portuguese Prosecutor General’s Office) in the area of human rights. She holds a DES in international relations with a specialization in international law from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. She was appointed as Special Rapporteur in September 2008 and took up her functions in November 2008.

For more information or media requests please contact Lucinda O’Hanlon on +41 22 917 9679 or lohanlon@ohchr.org or Marcelo Daher on +41 22 917 9431 or mdaher@ohchr.org

Learn more about the Independent Expert’s mandate and work, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/water/iexpert/index.htm