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Access to clean water a human right

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By Jacqueline Ndindi:

DO NOT EASILY ACCESS CLEAN WATER – Peri-urban locations like this one

Failure to optimally access clean water is the norm for most households in Baluti, a peri-urban location on the southern outskirts of Blantyre City.

According to one of the residents of the area, Halima Kang’ombe, a water tap, which was installed through the Malawi Social Action Fund, hardly has running water. Most people have to go around the few privileged homes with running taps, or wells, to buy water at K50 per bucket.

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They are at the mercy of the owners of the water source who sometimes refill to sell it to anyone.

“Sometimes we have to go as far as Zingwangwa Township [some four kilometres] just to find water for household use,” Kang’ombe laments.

A septic tank which turned into a water well is what has saved some households in Baluti. As the tank, which is no longer being used for the purpose it was constructed, swelled, smiles flitted across the faces of people in this area.

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But, in reality, the water is not safe for human consumption. Yet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number Six states that secure water and sanitation for all is crucial for a sustainable world where no one should be left behind.

With over 80 percent of Malawi’s population having access to clean water, it is easy to think the country is on the right track to achieving SDG 6 by 2030. But that 80 percent represents approximately 14 million people out of the estimated 17.5 million.

Where does that leave the remaining 20 percent then? That 20 percent comprises an estimated three million people who, in case, should not be left behind.

Yet, in the present case, it is clear that their right to accessing clean water—a basic human right which the United Nations (UN) Recognised in 2010—is being violated.

This right was later incorporated in the 2030 agenda, also known as the SDGs, which are supposed to be achieved by UN member states by the year 2030.

People like Kang’ombe and the rest of that 20 percent also need to fully enjoy all of their human rights, including the right to clean water.

A basic human right by definition is inherent and one is supposed to enjoy it by virtue of being born. But, as is the case with other human rights such as right to education, and sadly enough, the right to life, the right to clean water is something which over three million Malawians have to demand.

On the other hand, the challenge is that most people are not aware of such a basic human right and do not have a clue on where to demand it.

When asked if she knows that she has the right to access clean water, Kang’ombe laughs at what she says is a topic that is only discussed on radio is not practical, hence she and others living in her area have never bothered to demand this right from duty-bearers.

Today, as we commemorate World Water Day, under the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’, it is time to focus on empowering people so that they are able to demand their right to clean water by providing them with information about this human right and who to turn to when it is being violated.

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