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HRC-SL concern over shortage of water

-says search for water at night contributes to high rates of school dropouts

May 9, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone has expressed grave concern over the current shortage in the supply of and access to clean, safe and affordable water for drinking and other purposes in Freetown and other parts of the country.

According to the commission’s chairperson, Brima Abdulai Sheriff, the acute shortage of water affects the enjoyment of other human rights such as the right to education, health, security of person and human dignity, particularly for children, women, older persons and persons with disabilities.

He stated in a press statement that they were also concerned that even care giving institutions for disabled and vulnerable children, such as Cheshire Home, are also seriously affected by the current water crisis.

He observed that children, particularly girls, are out in the street very late at night or as early as 4 a.m. in the morning in search of water and according to him, such heightens their vulnerability and contributes to increase in teenage pregnancy, child labour, high rates of school dropouts, and poor school performance.

He added that such state of affairs was also in contravention of Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires States Parties to recognise the right of the child to education and “to take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and reduction of drop-out rates”.

“Water is a basic necessity and the provision of adequate clean and safe water is an indispensable precondition for socio-economic recovery during the post Ebola era. HRCSL acknowledges ongoing projects by the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) to restore pipe borne water supply in the districts headquarter towns and notes the increasing financial and technical support to Guma Valley Water Company to alleviate this perennial problem of water shortage in Freetown particularly during the dry season,” he stated.

He opined that certain members of the public, particularly those scouting for water, contribute to the shortage of water supply by destroying public water pipes and that the ineffective supervision and co-ordination of certain development projects such as road construction also lead to the damage of public water pipes, limiting the supply of water.

Commissioner Sheriff said United Nations Resolution 64/292 of the General Assembly in 2010 called upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.

The HRC-SL chairperson therefore urged government and in particular the Ministry of Water Resources, Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) and the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) to ensure that safe drinking water is available and accessible, particularly in areas where availability is limited or non-existent and that as a remedial measure, ensure that water tanks located at strategic locations around the country receive regular supply, as was done during the Ebola crisis.

The commission also urged government to institute measures that would prevent the destruction of water pipes in order to avoid unnecessary wastage of water supply, initiate legislative measures to achieve progressively the full realisation of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation for everyone by all appropriate means. It also called on the general public to refrain from destroying water pipes to avoid wastage of pipe borne water and interrupting its supply.

“Community leaders must ensure that water pipes and other water sources in their localities are secured and protected from destruction. The Commission will continue to monitor the situation and engage relevant state institutions to ensure that water supply improves and the right to access safe, clean and affordable water is fulfilled,” Commissioner Sheriff urged.

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