Courtesy of WiX images: Illustration of germs and bacteria on the hands
Like oxygen, water is crucial to our lives, well-being, and health. Without these two things, we would not be able to survive indefinitely. As you've probably hinted, this week's topic is water and sanitation in the context of sustainable development. In September 2015, all 193 member states convened together in September 2015 to implement the Sustainable Development Goals(SDG) framework in effect for all countries.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework is a set of 17 interrelated goals underpinned by three vital dimensions: people, planet, and prosperity. Member states have solely dedicated SDG 6 to ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; clean water and sanitation fall under the dimension of prosperity. The driving force behind the inclusion of SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) was a confluence of global issues, such as, but are not limited to, climate change, water scarcity, social exclusion, and pollution that continue to plague our society.
The progress rate to achieve SDG 6 is unequal in all regions. A majority of European and North American regions are on track or near achieving SDG 6 by 2030, while other countries are severely lagging, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. My country, the United States, is on track to achieve SDG 6 by 2030. The US's progress indicator areas are 6.1.1: essential drinking water services and 6.2.1: basic sanitation services. There are two main challenging areas under SDG 6. The two challenges are the stagnant, fixed proportion of the population using safely managed sanitation services and the astronomical rate of withdrawn freshwater sources. The latter challenge imperils our environment and gives way to utilizing the business-as-usual model. Under the business-as-usual framework, unsustainable agricultural practices, such as pesticide use on food crops or clearing forests, have unequivocally played a significant role in the ongoing climate change crisis.
Conference delegates at the 1977 United Nations (UN) Water Conference held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, cemented the right to water as a fundamental human right for all. The central premise was that everyone, irrespective of individual characteristics, is entitled to exercise their right to access water for personal and household purposes.
The human right to water is requisite in creating a peaceful, just society for everyone. It is interdependent to other human rights, such as education, health, security, and dignity. The interdependence of human rights is the notion that every human right is mutually reinforcing. The exclusion of one particular human right jeopardizes the well-being and security of all. All human rights are equally important, and no specific human rights category is superior to another. The right to clean water encompasses the tenets of safety, physical accessibility, affordability, and sufficiency. In all, water should be safe for human consumption, available in copious quantities, affordable, and accessible for individuals, namely women and children, without fearing for their safety.
Like other human rights, the right to access clean water is an aspirational goal that all stakeholders should strive to achieve. However, this aspirational goal is far from being fulfilled for many people in vulnerable groups. The prospects of achieving SDG 6 by 2030 is woefully short-sighted. Unfortunately, millions of people, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to safely managed water services. A disturbing statistic I read was about 40% of the world's population, not having access to a primary handwashing facility(WHO, UNICEF, 2019). 40% accounts for about 1.5 billion people with limited handwashing facilities containing no running water and soap.
Additionally, there are about 1.4 billion individuals who do not own a handwashing facility at all. A final alarming statistic is that approximately 50% of schools worldwide lack accessible handwashing facilities(WHO, UNICEF 2020). The message I want to drive home is the severity of the water scarcity crisis. The fact that many people worldwide still do not have access to water services is inexcusable. As I have previously mentioned, water is the foundation of life. Our bodies need water to carry out vital bodily functions, such as filtering the kidneys.
The attributable factors causing diarrhoeal illness are poor sanitation, unsanitary water, and inadequate hygiene practices. The bright side of this dire situation is that it is preventable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), handwashing is an effective method of keeping bacteria and germs at bay. This method could not be more apropos than ever, especially now amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In my work as a contact tracer, I am responsible for advising respondents to practice prudent safety precautions that include physical distancing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, and wearing a mask at all times. I practice these precautions myself, and I have not presented any COVID-19 symptoms at all. If people adhered to the safety guidelines, I am optimistic that we can mitigate the virus transmission.
Sachs, J. D. (2020). Sustainable Development Report 2020. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://dashboards.sdgindex.org/
UN Water, U. (2020). Human Rights: UN-Water. Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/human-rights/
UN Water, U. (2020). Handwashing/Hand hygiene: UN-Water. Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/handhygiene/
UN Stats, U. (2018). Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/indicators/Global%20Indicator%20Framework%20after%202020%20review_Eng.pdf