World marks 10th anniversary of declaring safe drinking-water, sanitation as human rights

Islamabad: The world, on Tuesday, marked the tenth anniversary since the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and Human Rights Council recognised access to safe drinking-water and sanitation as a human right.

Despite some improvements in water and sanitation indicators, the wider picture of access to safe drinking-water and sanitation is still a challenge for Pakistan where both are not yet recognized constitutionally as human rights.

The total economic cost of poor sanitation in Pakistan is nearly Rs343.7 billion – 3.94% of the country’s GDP according to World Bank statistics. Some of the country’s most pressing challenges including high infant mortality rates, stunting and even low school enrolment can be attributed to its lack of adequate and good quality WASH services.

According to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) 2018, report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organisation, 27,000 children die each year from diarrhea related diseases in Pakistan.

The report portrays a bleak picture of Pakistan in terms of sanitation and highlights that due to open defecation the country continues to face major health and nutritional consequences. In Pakistan open defecation is one of the major contributors of stunting among children as the current prevalence rate of stunting is 45 per cent — which is worrisome.

It says that in Pakistan just under half or 48 per cent of the population is using improved sanitation facilities, 6.0 per cent of population is using shared sanitation facilities and 23 per cent of the population is using other unimproved sanitation facilities.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is central to living a life in dignity and upholding human rights. Unfortunately, the situation is same in majority of the countries especially developing world.

“While substantial progress has been made in the last decade, billions of people around the world do not enjoy these fundamental rights. Globally, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water and two billion people lack basic sanitation.

Many of these people have to walk long distances to and from their homes to access clean water, which can impact girls’ education and increase women’s time burden, as women are the primary collectors of water.

The human rights to water and sanitation require that these are available, physically accessible, safe, acceptable and affordable for all without discrimination,” said Chief Executive WaterAid Tim Wainwright in his statement on the day.

This story is written by Mayra Imran and originally appeared at

Mayra Imran

Myra Imran works as a staff reporter for The News in Islamabad and is an award-winning journalist. She is Joint Secretary for National Press Club, Islamabad.
Myra reports on human rights issues, including water and sanitation. Her expertise is on women issues. She was declared ‘Media Woman of the Year’ by the Excellence Award Foundation and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 2009. The following year, she was presented the ‘Benazir Women in Leadership Award’ by the Ministry of Human Rights. In 2010 she directed a documentary on the post-earthquake situation in Balakot, one of the worst affected areas in the October 2005 earthquake.

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