By Machrine Birungi and Sheba Odondi
GENEVA/DAR ES SALAAM – In a recent interview with WSSCC, an independent UN human rights expert called for heightened action to reduce inequalities and discrimination in the sector of water, sanitation and hygiene.
Mr Leo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, stressed the need for states to identify the vulnerable groups left behind and provide adequate services to them, commemorating this year’s Human Rights Day on 10 December.
“The lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is often compounded by discrimination, stigma and inequalities that occur at individual, group, community and country levels,” he said.
According to a report on disability, 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. The number of people aged 60 and over is increasing at an unprecedented pace, anticipated to rise from its current 740 million to reach 1 billion by the end of the decade. In addition, an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV are some of the people affected by inequalities as per UNAIDS.
Cognizant of the salient statistics, Mr Heller emphasized that heads of states and policymakers need to adopt a comprehensive approach.
“A human-rights approach to water, sanitation and hygiene must be enshrined in policies, principles and guidelines. It is a critical foundation for achieving the goals outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Mr Heller’s appeal to address inequalities and discrimination has been reflected in a range of activities WSSCC carried out throughout 2019.
For example, WSSCC organized a three-day workshop in Tanzania earlier in September to examine ideas and methods to strengthen collaborations at the regional and national levels and accelerate an enabling environment for equality and non-discrimination (EQND).
The regional workshop was convened in Dar es Salaam between 9 and 11 September 2019 in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sanitation and Water for All (SWA).
Simon Msukwa, WSSCC Program Officer, said the workshop provided participants from more than eight countries an opportunity to learn how to promote equality and non-discrimination under the principles of “leaving no one behind.”
“When we talk about closing the gap, the likelihood of missing so many people are high, so we need to identify those who are left behind,” Msukwa said.
One of the presentations made by Anthony Dedouche, WSSCC’s Global Policy and Innovation Analyst, shed light on global policy advocacy processes, specifically, the Leave No One Behind and human rights-based approaches.
“If you are not contributing to policy advocacy processes in the various global platforms such as the Commission on the Status of Women, Women Deliver, High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development, then these are missed opportunities for policy change, resource mobilization, data sharing, campaigning and other relevant activities that may be key to effective implementation,” he said.
The executive secretary of Dar es Salaam City, Mr Abubakar Kunenge, stressed that it is not enough for countries to make commitments. He said all stakeholders need to “pull together and identify roles that they can take up in helping governments to achieve SDG targets.”
Citing statistics collected by Tanzania’s National Sanitation Management System (NSMIS), Mr Kunenge said sanitation coverage at the household level in Tanzania increased from 22 percent in 2012 to 57 percent in 2019.
“These achievements tell us that there are still large populations accessing unimproved sanitation and hygiene,” he said. “It shows that there is a need to work strategically, in collaboration with partners to increase the population accessing improved sanitation.”
Mr Sitali Muyatwa, Country Engagement Officer for Sanitation and Water for All, called on the member countries to increase their commitments to the Mutual Accountability Mechanism.
This mechanism empowers partners to hold each other accountable for progress towards achieving the SDG targets on sanitation and hygiene.
“Only five countries: Malawi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria, have a committee to the mutual accountability mechanism,” said Mr Muyatwa. He urged the remaining countries to align their commitments to water, sanitation and hygiene to the national planning processes.
Ms Kate Medlicott, Group Leader on Sanitation and Wastewater for the World Health Organization, introduced the participants to a new set of guidelines on sanitation and health developed by the organization.
Ms Meddlicot explained that the new guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for health-protecting sanitation, covering policy, governance measures, implementation of sanitation technologies. The instructions also tackle systems and behavioural interventions, risk-based management, and monitoring approaches.
Thirty participants, comprising of WSSCC’s National Coordinators, executing agencies, implementing partners and government counterparts, from nine African countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda attended the regional workshop in Tanzania and reaffirmed their commitment to leaving no one behind.
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