11 July 2011

Namibia: Independent UN Expert Urges Nation to Expand Access to Sanitation Services

The United Nations independent expert on the right to water and sanitation today took note of Namibia's success in expanding access to water and urged the Government to make similar efforts to ensure that proper sanitation is available to more people in the southern African country.

At the end of a week-long visit to the country, Catarina de Albuquerque noted that Namibia has over the past 20 years achieved significant progress in extending its water network across the country.

"It is time for sanitation to get the same attention," she said, adding that Namibia would have to make an important choice between wet and dry sanitation.

"Wet sanitation risks making unaffordable water even more unaffordable. In the dry climate of Namibia, wet sanitation uses precious water, while dry sanitation offers a more sustainable path forward. However, dry sanitation solutions will only work with widespread awareness-raising efforts," she added.

Ms. Albuquerque noted that access to improved water sources appeared to be very high, especially in urban areas, but that water points were still far away from households and water remained too expensive.

"When water is too expensive, those with lower incomes are forced to make unacceptable trade offs - choosing between water and medicine or food for their child, for instance," she said.

The UN Special Rapporteur stressed that access to water and sanitation are human rights, and while that did not mean that the two services must be offered free of charge, it meant that systems must be in place to ensure availability to those who face economic barriers to access.

Ms. Albuquerque said community participation in the design and implementation of water and sanitation projects was indispensable.

"Communities have important perspectives which must be taken into account in the design and implementation of water and sanitation projects," she said. "They also play an important role in monitoring quality."

Ms. Albuquerque was received by the Namibian Prime Minister, representatives from Government ministries, the private sector and civil society. She also visited informal settlements in Windhoek, the capital, the Windhoek central prison, as well as communities in Outapi and Epupa.

She will prepare a report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next year, describing her main findings and providing recommendations.

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