Clean Water: A Basic Human Right

Trends & Insights

Basic human rights are fundamental rights that every person is entitled to simply because he or she is a human being. International laws have enlisted a number of basic human rights, which every government must ensure to provide its citizens. One such important human right is access to clean water. Unfortunately, this situation remains an unrealized dream. According to a WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation conducted in 2013, it was reported that about 780 million lacked access to improved sources of drinking water. The report also put the number of people lacking basic sanitation at a staggering 2.6 billion. To put it in perspective, every 2 out 7 people in the world do not have access to basic sanitation. These are just some of the report findings (the complete report is available on

Additionally, almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water. The United Nations cited studies that indicated that about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year due to water and sanitation related issues. Lack of political-will and a general apathy among the ruling classes are some of the greatest challenges that are faced in overcoming these problems. For effective understanding of this point, we can refer to the Sudanese government’s decision to relocate 80,000 squatters to a camp having only one well. The decision was described as a “virtual death sentence” by the U.N. This is just one of the many examples available.

In South Africa, almost 200,000 face diarrheal infection due to unavailability of clean water sources. Many experts have said that South Africa’s water crisis has begun already, contrary to the government’s claims of being among the Top 10 countries providing clean water to its citizens. “Water shedding” has started already in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. These deplorable conditions are said to worsen in the next 10 years because of limited available resources (which hampers the construction of new dams), years of infrastructural neglect and population growth.

What actions can a government take to combat water shedding?