The urgency and complexity of the human right to water and sanitation become clearer as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Besides the health and sanitary aspects of it, the lack of access to clean water in homes is putting women and children in even more vulnerable situations.
The third in a series of podcasts produced by the World Council of Churches COVID-19 support team, aired on 6 October, focuses on the importance of water in COVID-19 and the scandal of the lack of access to water by millions worldwide.
Speakers Bishop Arnold Temple, from Sierra Leone, and Dr Maude Barlow, from Canada, stressed that 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations recognition of human right to water and sanitation.
“The human family came together and said that it is not okay for someone to have their child die of waterborne disease because they can’t buy water,” said Barlow, adding that the decision shifted the notion of human access to water, from being a need that could be taken care of by charity to a human right.
Barlow, founder of the concept of Blue Community, a concept created by the Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project, to recognize water and sanitation as human rights, promotes public control over water resources and banning or phasing out the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at events. She highlighted the importance of the faith communities around the world in the campaign to promote water and sanitation as a human right.
“Water is a gift from God. And every human being is entitled to benefit from it. It is a right, and not a privilege,” said Temple, who also serves as the chairperson of the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network. “Faith communities throughout the world must emphasize the facts and their pastoral encounters should make the provision of water to vulnerable and deprived people a priority,” he added.
Temple also noted the importance of water during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by people who do not have access to it. “The importance of the free access to water in this crisis cannot be overemphasized,” he said. “Clean water and proper sanitation must be seen as essential elements in our quest to confront the pandemic, since there is a clear recommendation for frequent washing of hands to counter the spread of the virus,” added Temple.
The conversation was moderated by Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network.
"Podcast shares how faith communities can boost mental health among youth" - WCC news release 27 August 2020
"Protecting children’s rights even more crucial as COVID-19 wears on" - WCC news release 31 August 2020
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