Rights to Water and Sanitation: Legal Framework in Fight Against Covid-19

Covid-19 has obviously underpinned the importance of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). With the onset of the pandemic, the importance of WASH – Sustainable Development Goal 6 is even more widely recognised and felt.

Covid 19 is not just a health crisis, but also a WASH crisis and a development/economic crisis.

Covid crisis will likely persist for some time, and there is a serious risk of resurgence in infections; hence governments need to build capacities to alternate between reopening and restricting economies on a granular, local level.

As a country, we have been responding to Covid19 heavily from a health perspective; to pay health workers, PPEs, ICU beds, drugs etc., which is okay, but it is one-sided; how about also invest more in public health interventions, water (i.e. subsidize Water Service Providers to provide water to the people), sanitation and hygiene, decontamination of public spaces, manning of ports and boarder points among others.

Framework for the Rights to Water and Sanitation; Global and Local

  1. The Human Rights: Haki za Binadamu, simply put, basic requirements/ entitlements that human beings get simply by being born that facilitate lives characterized by dignity and humanity. The human rights to water and sanitation. On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. Access to water and sanitation is required for the realisation of other human rights, including the right to adequate housing, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and the right to life.
  2. The Global Development Goals (Sustainable Development Goals SDGs), 2015 – 2030 – Underlying principle is leaving no one behind. Goal 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. 6.1 provides that by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. 6.2 provides that by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
  3. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010: Chapter 4, Bill of Rights Part 2: Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Article 43: Economic and Social Rights. (1) Every person has the right– (a) to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care; (b) to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation; (c) to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality; (d) to clean and safe water in adequate quantities; (e) to social security; and (f) to education.
  4. The Water Act 2016 Article 5. Every water resource is vested in and held by the national government in trust for the people of Kenya. Article 9. Every person has the right to access water resources, whose administration is the function of the national government as stipulated in the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution. Section 43 (2 & 3) provides that the use of water for domestic purposes shall take precedence over the use of water for any other purpose; the nature and degree of water use authorised by a permit should be reasonable and beneficial in relation to other persons who use the same sources of supply or bodies of water.  County Government facilitate development of operation plans – Water Strategy, Water Master Plan, Sectoral Plan and County Integrated Development Plans – Section 72 (1)(n) Water Act, 2016; County Government submit to Regulator & Cabinet Secretary annual development plan incorporating investment and financing plan for provision of water and sanitation services; County Government may allocate targeted subsidy for non-viable rural water service providers County Government may partner with private partners – section 93 of the water act 2016. Licensed WSPs shall ring fence revenue for O+M.  State and non-state actor shall consult with CG regarding development of provision of water services in the county. County Executive Committee Members (CECM) establish a rural water services provider to coordinate functions of small-scale utility – as a public limited liability company, as set out on section 77 (2),(3) and (4) of the Water Act 2016.

KEWASNET Call to Action:

We call upon duty bearers (Government – National and CGs, NGOs, CSOs, Policy Makers)

  1. To ensure investments are focused and directed towards WASH specifically SDG 6 2030, safely managed services.
  2. Increase access, create more connections in the low-income areas – Last mile connectivity concept, leaving no one behind.
  3. Enhance innovative investment in Water services provision – Embrace public investment, private sector investment, commercial financing etc. to connect more household – you can cannot talk of affordability without first having the service
  4. Invest in water resources management, the water resources are rapidly deteriorating
  5. Reimagine, rethink, rewrite Water resources and Services management in this country
  6. To fight and shun away from all forms of corruption in the water sector
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