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SAHRC launches National Hearing on Water and Sanitation

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The SA Human Rights Commission (Commission) will commemorate this year’s Human Rights Month by launching the first phase of its national hearings on water and sanitation on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 6 Spin Street, Cape Town from 08:30 – 14:30. The Commission’s commemorations will take place under the theme of Constitutional accountability, the right to dignity and the progressive realisation of the right to water and sanitation in South Africa. The hearings are in accordance with the Commission’s mandate to monitor and assess the observance of human rights.

In 2010 and 2011, the Commission investigated and made findings in respect of two complaints on the right to water and sanitation. In the first matter, residents of Makhaza lodged a complaint after the City of Cape Town installed unenclosed toilets in their area. The Commission found that the provision of unenclosed toilets was not only contrary to the guidelines of the National Housing Code but a violation of their right to dignity and this was confirmed by the Cape Town High Court when this matter was brought before it.  

The Commission also intervened in the erection of unenclosed toilets in the Rammolutsi Township, Viljoenskroon, in the Free State. The community raised concerns that the Moqhaka Local Municipality violated their rights to human dignity, privacy and clean environment by installing toilets without enclosures.

The Commission again found that the provision of unenclosed toilets was not only contrary to the guidelines of the National Housing Code but a violation of their right to dignity.
The Commission recommended that the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) must provide a report to the Commission on the quality of sanitation services delivered by local government in the country. The DPME provided the first phase of its report and this will be presented at the hearing on the 14 March 2012.

The access to water and sanitation is crucial to the realisation of other human rights such as the rights to housing, education and health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 23% of all deaths in Africa are the result of avoidable environmental hazards such as contaminated water, poor hygiene, inadequate sanitation, poor water resource management, use of unsafe fuels, atmospheric pollution and poor infrastructure. According to WHO, South Africa is “strongly underestimating” its own environmental burden of disease. In 2008, it was estimated that 16% of all deaths in the country are attributed to the state of the environment, with an estimated 69 economically productive years lost for every 1000 persons due to the environmental burden of disease.

In South Africa, the disparity between and within Provinces is stark in relation to access. For example, despite data indicating that more than 90% of children have access to basic sanitation in the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town acknowledged that 45 397 households don’t have access to “a minimum standard of service", and a recent study by Water Dialogues shows that in fact the real figure is closer to 100 000 households (when using the criteria of "basic sanitation" as defined by the Act, which excludes bucket toilets).

The evidence shows that lack of water and sanitation has a significant impact on the health of the poor and vulnerable populations and in particular, children. It is one of the causes of preventable deaths and contributes to the burden of disease in South Africa. Furthermore, the lack of adequate toilets per household in many informal settlements across the country impacts on the dignity and safety of individuals.

For more information: Vincent Moaga 0735629866/ vinmoaga@mtn.blackberry.com

For comments email info@sahrc.org.za [Back]

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