Senegal UN rights expert urges more spending on sanitation and clean water

21 November 2011A United Nations human rights expert warned today that millions of Senegalese remain “condemned to very unhealthy living conditions” until the West African country’s Government significantly increases spending on ensuring major improvements to water and sanitation facilities. “The Senegalese Government has repeatedly stated that sanitation for all is a national priority. However, these promises have not been translated in sufficient budget allocations,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, in a statement at the end of an eight-day visit. “As resources are scarce, public investments in water and sanitation must prioritize those who need the most first,” she added. Noting that poor communities in Dakar, the capital, bore higher costs for access to clean water than richer households, Ms. de Albuquerque called the situation “unacceptable.” “Under no circumstances should those living in poverty have these fundamental rights denied because they cannot pay or because they cannot present the necessary documentation to benefit from these essential services,” she argued. Ms. de Albuquerque stressed, however that, better sanitation conditions would not be achieved by the construction of latrines and sanitary tanks alone. On top of those initiatives, she urged the promotion of improved hygiene practices to communities at large. The Special Rapporteur pointed out that while Senegal’s water network obtained coverage rates of 87 per cent in 2010, increased water access would have “little meaning” if the quality of the water offered was not adequate for consumption.She emphasized the need for the creation of a transparent regulatory agency to monitor the activity of Senegal’s public-private waterworks, calling it a “crucial step” in ensuring the safety and accessibility of water and sanitation services.According to last year’s global annual assessment of sanitation and drinking by UN agencies, 95 per cent of countries reported that current funding was not enough to provide access to half of those without toilets.Ms. De Albuquerque has been Special Rapporteur since September 2008 and works in an independent and unpaid capacity. She reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.