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Lack of water at state hospitals unacceptable
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
September 10
, 2013

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is deeply concerned by media reports in The Standard of 8 September 2013 that two major hospitals in Harare, Parirenyatwa and Harare Hospitals, lack a continuous supply of water. Access to potable water is not only a fundamental right, but lack thereof can have a negative effect on other rights. The chronic water shortage at these two hospitals is totally unacceptable. It undermines the progressive realization of the right to water and negatively impacts on patients’ ability to progressively realize the best attainable state of physical and mental health.

This is not the first time that ZLHR has raised this critical concern [see press statement of 3 August 2012 entitled: ‘Water woes continue as government remains indifferent’]. More than a year has passed, yet nothing has been done.

Whilst the country continues to be plagued with perennial water shortages, which is particularly striking in the urban areas, this situation persists with no commitment from the authorities to fully address this, and no accountability for its failure in this regard.

The right to access clean water continues to be taken for granted and be treated as a privilege. For more than 7 years now, Zimbabweans have continued to tolerate lack of access to basic services such as potable water by authorities. Such dereliction of duty is not only irresponsible but has caused wanton loss of life in previous years due to the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Zimbabwean urbanites must not continue to be to be taken for granted with perennial water shortages, water that does not come for free in Zimbabwe. The executive arm of government, and the new legislature must take this challenge head-on and not continue to leave this unaddressed as if it is business as usual.

ZLHR reiterates that lack of fulfillment of this basic right will have a boomerang effect on not only other social rights, but also economic, cultural, civil and political rights. Human rights remain interrelated and inalienable.

The state, through its institutions, is reminded that Zimbabwe is state party, voluntarily to human rights instruments obliging it to respect social rights, and availability of clean water is indispensable to guaranteeing a dignified human life. As a natural resource, water is fundamental to life and health. ZLHR also emphasizes that water is essential for survival as it constitutes an important element of the human diet and there is no adequate substitute for it. Lack of sufficient and safe water is disastrous for humankind. The government is reminded that access to clean water must be seen as a fundamental human right.

In any event, the new Constitution as published on 22 May 2013, protects the right to water in section 77, which provides that every person has a right to safe, clean and potable water. Zimbabwe is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These instruments oblige the government to ensure that citizens have the highest attainable state of physical health. Without water, one cannot achieve this status. The United Nations has also through UN Resolution 64/292, now recognized that water is a human right and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.

ZLHR recommends the following as a matter of urgency:

  • Urgent measures be taken by the state to provide alternative and uninterrupted sources of water to the two hospitals until such time as a constant and reliable supply has been restored;
  • The state, through its Ministry of Water Resources and Development, local councils, and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), must take effective measures to ensure adequate and regular provision of clean water, and must publicly disclose such measures to the general public;
  • Investigations must be made into culpability for this disruption of service and failure to deliver, and those responsible must be made accountable forthwith;
  • Government must, after comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders, adopt and implement a sustainable strategy that includes a clear plan for provision of clean water to all communities, and regular monitoring and evaluation of progress and challenges.
  • Management at Parirenyatwa and Harare Hospitals must take responsibility and prioritise the welfare of patients working closely with central government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that there is adequate and continuous clean water supply at the two hospitals.

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