GENEVA (30 July 2014) – At the end of a seven-day official visit to Kenya*, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, called on the Government of Kenya to transform the constitutional rights to water and sanitation into a reality for the millions of Kenyans who do not enjoy these fundamental human rights.
“I urge the Parliament to adopt the Water Bill, and the Government to subsequently develop a new national water and sanitation strategy, which should be translated into real action at the county level,” de Albuquerque said.
In Kenya, only 30 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation. Thirteen percent of people still have no choice but defecate in the open. “This is a daily indignity for over 6 million people”, she added.
“I visited Turkana county where over 80 percent of the population practice open defecation. This is not only an absolute denial of the right to sanitation, but also a serious threat to public health and the security of women and girls who have to walk into the bush at night. These women and girls are exposed to daily risks due to the lack of proper sanitation,” she emphasized.
“Realizing human rights costs money. Without dedicated budgets for sanitation, water and hygiene, the constitutionally recognized rights to water and sanitation will never materialize,” de Albuquerque said.
“By investing in sanitation, Kenya would make significant economic gains,” stressed the Special Rapporteur. “The country loses at least 29.6 billion KES (330 million USD) every year due to premature death, health care costs and productivity losses resulting from the lack of access to adequate sanitation”, she said.
In informal settlements and rural areas, the human rights expert also noted that the poorest of the poor are forced to pay much more for their water at water kiosks than the approved tariffs.
“I call upon the authorities to take immediate measures to enforce and monitor the official tariffs for water kiosks. This is crucial to correct the systematic pattern of the poor paying much more for water from kiosks than the rich for water from pipes,” stressed de Albuquerque.
“This is the moment to make it happen. The Kenyan government must seize the opportunity. The rights to water and sanitation should not remain a dream for so many. These rights are recognized in the Kenyan Constitution itself. The process of devolution of State competence for provision of water and sanitation services represents a unique opportunity to design national and county-level roadmaps to reach the most marginalized and excluded and to ensure that their rights become a reality,” de Albuquerque said.
The Special Rapporteur will present a formal report on her official visit to a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will include her final findings and recommendations to the Government of Kenya.
(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14912&LangID=E
Catarina de Albuquerque is the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Ms. de Albuquerque is a Professor at the Law Faculties of the Universities of Braga, Coimbra and of the American University’s Washington College of Law. She is a senior legal advisor at the Prosecutor General’s Office, a Portuguese independent institution.
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