Special Rapporteur Urges Human Rights Approach to Water and Sanitation in Lesotho

This article was submitted on (Last modified: Feb. 21, 2020, 8:26 a.m.)


News Article

This article was written by Delia Paul and originally appeared on the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub. The thumbnail was sourced from United Nations News Story


The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, highlighted justice issues related to water and sanitation access in Lesotho, following his two-week visit. He urged the Government of Lesotho to give attention to principles of equality, non-discrimination, access to information and prioritizing those who are most vulnerable. Heller made his statement after visiting town and country areas, homes and various public facilities such as schools, clinics and prisons on his trip.

At the close of his visit from 4-15 February, Heller presented the situation of a fictitious young woman struggling with lack of access to drinking water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene facilities, to draw attention to issues affecting many of Lesotho’s people. He emphasized that providing water and sanitation (SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2) will help promote human development and address poverty, noting that Lesotho currently falls in the “low” category of the UN’s human development index, ranking 159th out of 189 countries. Specifically, he called attention to vulnerable groups including women-headed households, rural women and girls, orphans, people living with HIV/AIDS, and those living in remote areas.

Providing water and sanitation will help promote human development and address poverty.

In a media release from the UN Human Rights Agency (OHCHR), Heller also noted the situation of villages in Lesotho that have no running water, despite being located next to dams that provide water to neighboring South Africa. His full statement identifies the relevant government agencies that may wish to take action, and proposes many recommendations, for example: prioritizing villages in water-scarce areas for special assistance and considering trucking in water during drought periods; providing water and toilets to all schools; making hygiene and menstrual hygiene management a part of national policy; ensuring that people who live near reservoirs can benefit from their proximity to water sources and have access to water and sanitation; provide public taps and toilets for street vendors and other workers on the street; ensure disposal of fecal sludge from existing toilet facilities; and review current tariff schemes to ensure that everyone can afford water and sanitation services. Heller is due to present a full report of his findings to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in September 2019, which will include consideration of the impact of mega-projects on water and sanitation access in Lesotho. Heller will also submit a report to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2019 focused on the impact of mega-projects on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.