06. Clean Water and Sanitation and SRHR

Lack of clean water and adequate sanitation leads to death and disease in many countries. SDG 6 aims to “ensure access to safe water sources and sanitation for all” (United Nations 2016). Globally 1.8 billion people use water sources that are contaminated by faeces, exposing them to the risk to infections. Globally, clean water is an increasingly scare resource. In the southern African region alone, only 61% of the population has access to safe drinking water, and only 39% has access to sanitation facilities. This is a serious threat to health in general but especially to the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls during menstruation, as well as pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

There are various conventions and laws that support clean water and sanitation as envisioned in SDG6. The sections relevant to SRHR can be found below.

You can see how SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation – relates to the SRHR of different groups below.

Women SRHR of Women and Clean Water and Sanitation
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According to UNICEF, the inequitable distribution of water and sanitation worldwide forces 1 billion people to defecate in the open. This poses immense risk of illness caused by contamination, and to safety - particularly to children and pregnant women when they go to isolated spaces alone (UNICEF, 2017a).

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for Women and SRHR.
The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
  • Article 12.1 States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.
  • Article 12.2 States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 12.0 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This includes the provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child.
  • Article 10.0 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits. Absolute protection and assistance should be accorded to the family … particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of
United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
  • Section 54 By 2005, reduce the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 20 per cent, and by 50 per cent by 2010, by: ensuring that 80 per cent of pregnant women accessing antenatal care have information, counselling and other HIV prevention services available to them, increasing the availability of and by providing access for HIV-infected women and babies to effective treatment to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as through effective interventions for HIV-infected women, including voluntary and confidential counselling and testing, access to treatment, especially anti-retroviral therapy and, where appropriate, breast milk substitutes and the provision of a continuum of care.
  • Section 60 By 2005, implement measures to increase capacities of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection, principally through the provision of health care and health services, including sexual and reproductive health, and through prevention education that promotes gender equality within a culturally and gender sensitive framework;
  • Section 61 By 2005, ensure development and accelerated implementation of national strategies for women’s empowerment, promotion and protection of women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and reduction of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS through the elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional and customary practices, abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, battering and trafficking in women and girls.
Children SRHR of Children and Clean Water and Sanitation
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Good reproductive health requires protection and well-being for mothers as well as their young children, however each year more than 250,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoeal diseases (UNICEF, 2017a).

Human Rights Conventions and agreements for Children and SRHR
Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Article 24(2) States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: …
    c) to combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of
    readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water, taking into consideration
    the dangers and risks of environmental pollution; …
    (e) To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported
    in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation
    and the prevention of accidents
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 10.0 Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation.
  • Article 13.2 Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.
United Nations Declarations of Commitment on HIV/Aids.
  • Section 65 By 2003, develop and by 2005 implement national policies and strategies to: build and strengthen governmental, family and community capacities to provide a supportive environment for orphans and girls and boys infected and affected by HIV/AIDS including by providing appropriate counselling and psycho-social support; ensuring their enrolment in school and access to shelter, good nutrition, health and social services on an equal basis with other children; to protect orphans and vulnerable children from all forms of abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and loss of inheritance.
  • Section 67 Urge the international community, particularly donor countries, civil society, as well as the private sector to complement effectively national programmes to support programmes for children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in affected regions, in countries at high risk and to direct special assistance to sub-Saharan Africa;