Poor Water, Sanitation Harm Workers: UN Secretary General

22 Mar 2016 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
NEW YORK, NY, United States

Lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation harms workers around the world, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to mark World Water Day on March 22nd.

This year’s World Water Day was held under the theme “Water and Jobs.”

“All workers can be harmed by poor water and sanitation,” Ban said. “Of 2 million work-related deaths every year, nearly one in five are caused by poor quality drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.”

“The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce,” he said.

He noted that “people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty.” 

In her own World Water Day statement, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director General Irina Bokova added that “water is vital for agriculture, industry, transport and the production of energy and is an engine for economic growth. It generates and sustains jobs worldwide … Water quality and sanitation remains essential in providing a decent livelihood.”

“… Safe drinking water and sanitation at the workplace must become priorities everywhere,” she said.

“Meeting the challenge of creating and preserving decent jobs in the face of climate change and water scarcity will require far greater investments in science, technology and innovation," Bokova continued. "The evidence shows that investing in water infrastructure and services can have high returns for both economic development and job creation.”

“The challenges we face from climate change, water scarcity and the displacement of low-skilled workers are enormous,” she said. “But promoting high-quality jobs, while preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable water management, will help to eradicate poverty, promote growth and craft a future of decent work for all. This is UNESCO’s message today.”

Meanwhile, international human rights group Human Rights Watch emphasized the need for good governance to bridge the gap between water “haves” and “have nots.”

“In many parts of the world, negligence, corruption, or a lack of accountability undermine the right to water. Governments are often slow to act, unaccountable, and deny or minimize manifest harm,” and “as usual, it is the poor and the marginalized who are most affected,” Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher for Health and Human Rights Richard Pearshouse and Senior Researcher in the Women’s Rights Division Amanda Klasing said.

“This World Water Day, governments should act to regulate and enforce laws around water so that all people -- particularly the most marginalized -- can quench their thirst without risking their health,” they said. 

“For the water ‘have nots,’ rights matter.”