Clean Water as a Human Right


“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”   Matthew 25: 35-6.

The United Nations General Assembly this week passed a resolution declaring that the right to clean drinking water and sanitation was “a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment  of life and all human rights.”   884 million people on our Earth lack access to safe drinking water.  Some 2.6 billion have no adequate sanitation.  3.5 million deaths occur worldwide each year due to this problem.  Of 192 members in the General Assembly, 122 voted in favor of the resolution, none against, and 41 nations abstaining, including the United States, which feels that the resolution was not consistent with international law.  It might also torpedo, American officials believe, talks in Geneva on water rights.  How this is so is rather hard to fathom. 

As is so often the case with our world today, wealth, power, and military armaments matter most.  Human health and safety is distinctly secondary.  And once again the United States lost an opportunity to stay out in front on an issue that really matters to people all over our world.   Perhaps at the G20 Summit this summer in Toronto they would have addressed this.  It took the nation of Bolivia to introduce the resolution.   Spain, Italy, and Norway backed it as did over a hundred and nineteen other nations.   When child after child dies of typhus and related disease what should we in the United States be saying?  Are we being good stewards of the Earth?  Are we doing a kindness for others the way we have been taught to do? 

The next time your child says “can I have a drink of water mommy,” what if you had to give them something that might kill them?  Have 3.5 million people been killed by terrorists in any year since 911?  What would the response of the Western nations be if it were proportional to those killed by terrorists since 911 and especially the response to that on the part of the United States?  Why were some of the Western nations so reluctant to declare this fundamental human need that is connected to our very survival a right and not a privilege?   Would that mean they would have to spend some of their resources helping other nations where people are hard pressed every day to find  safe drinkable water? 

Clean water is a basic human right.  It is essential to our survival, and life itself becomes unlivable without it.  God bless the United Nations General Assembly this week for doing some very good work. They hope to reduce this problem by half by 2015.  Now let’s get to work on those other 41 nations to get off the fence and do something now.  The children are asking for water, not in some distant future age,  but right now this very day.

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