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Water and Sanitation  

The Millennium Declaration, which formed the basis for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), emphasised the need for all countries to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources. Governments addressed this issue at the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 by agreeing to develop Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plans by 2005. Further, a complementary target (Goal 7C) was added to halve by 2015 the proportion of people lacking sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation (see box in the section Millennium Development Goals).

Collecting water from a hand pump in Kunene Province, Angola.
Source: Tump 2006
( click to enlarge )

Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is a fundamental need and a human right vital for the dignity and health of all people (WHO website 2010). It is measured by the following indicators:

  • Proportion of population using an improved drinking-water source; and

  • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility.

The Human Right of Water

Prior to 2002, the right to water had not been explicitly declared but it emanates from other human rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and succeeding UN Covenants. As water is one of the most fundamental conditions for survival, other human rights like the right to an adequate standard of living cannot be realized without secure access to water.

In 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a UN monitoring body, adopted General Comment No.15 to a covenant established in 1966. In this official comment, water is not only recognized as a limited natural resource and a public good but also as a human right. The right to water includes access to basic sanitation as key for protecting the quality of drinking water supplies and resources.

Although the General Comment is not legally binding, it imposes the moral obligation on national states to respect, protect and fulfil this human right. Governments are thus obliged to respect people’s right to water and must refrain from disconnecting their water supply. They are furthermore obliged to stop pollution or prevent companies from increasing the price for water to an unaffordable level. Their third obligation is to pass legislation, develop and implement programmes for water supply and monitor their progress.

Source: World Water Council website 2011

Please proceed to the sections Improved Sources of Drinking Water and Improved Sanitation Facilities to read about the progress made by Angola and Namibia towards meeting MDG 7C.




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View a historical timeline of the Kunene basin countries, including water agreements & infrastructure

Video scenes about the limited access to water of the San in Kunene Province