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Direitos Humanos / 07/04/2021


Covid-19 and the Right to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

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Covid-19 and the Right to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Since the new coronavirus - known scientifically as SARS-CoV-2 - was identified in Wuhan, in the province of Hubei (People's Republic of China), in December 2019, questions have arisen around the world about the ways in which the viruses and the prevention of contagion.

Due to the global proportion that the virus was taking, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the scale of contamination to pandemic. The aim was to encourage countries to mobilize in efforts to stop the contagion of COVID-19.

As time goes by and observations on how countries have dealt with COVID-19, however, more than the problems caused by the virus itself, the pandemic brings reflections on infrastructure issues that are fundamental to tackling it. In this text, we will address some of these issues. More specifically, the Right to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all.

Also read our material on the new coronavirus here!

The importance of sanitation and hygiene

So far, the main way to protect people the virus, according to WHO and health agencies, is social isolation. But in addition to it, organizations widely recommend hand washing with soap and water or 70% alcohol, as well as constant cleaning of utensils that are routinely used, such as cell phones, controls.

It sounds simple, doesn't it? However, it is not that simple. This is because not all people in Brazil have access to the basic right to have quality and quantity water at home, as well as safe basic sanitation and favorable conditions for hygiene. To get a sense, according to the UN, 2.2 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water and 4.2 billion do not have basic sanitation. This shows us a multiple challenge, not only because of the lack of access to people's basic rights, but because of the worsening consequences of this lack of access at a time as we are living - of the pandemic and the health crisis.

The right to water and sanitation

The human right to water and sanitation was first recognized in March 1977 at the United Nations (UN) Conference on Water, which took place in Mar de la Plata in Argentina. There, it was declared that:

"All peoples, whatever their stage of development and their social and economic conditions, are entitled to access drinking water in quantity and quality equal to their basic needs".

In addition, on March 22, 1992, the UN launched an important Universal Declaration of the Right to Water, in order to stimulate the environmental perception of water issues for the whole of society.

More recently, on July 28, 2010, the right to water and sanitation was formally recognized for the first time, at the United Nations General Assembly, through Resolution No. A / Res / 64/292 that:

"Clean drinking water and sanitation are essential for the realization of all human rights."

The right to water in Brazil

In Brazil, the Federal Constitution does not highlight access to water and basic sanitation as a fundamental right. However, these rights are intertwined with the right to life and health - since the lack of a source of drinking water and safe sanitation affects people's quality of life.

Due to the lack of investment in access to drinking water and basic sanitation. In Brazil, according to 2018 data the Sanitation Panel managed by the Institute Brazil, 33,129,083 (thirty-three million, one hundred and twenty-nine thousand, eighty-three) of people who do not have access to water - which would be water safe for their basic needs - and 94,734,344 (ninety-four million, seven hundred and thirty-four thousand, three hundred and forty-four) people who do not have sewage collection - which is to have safe sanitation in their community. This highlights the current difficulty of millions of Brazilians in carrying out consensual prevention in the fight against COVID-19 - due hygiene.

A social challenge

Since the virus was detected on Brazilian soil, the risks associated with preventive measures have been perceived unevenly. The poorest population is subject to the greatest vulnerabilities. Water shortages have been recorded in several communities in Brazil, Rocinha, in Rio de Janeiro to stilts in Recife. Many Brazilians have no water at home and often only have water available once a week. How to ask all these people to clean themselves?

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a huge challenge in Brazil, which requires greater seriousness in a post-pandemic country. not only government officials will be invited to think about creative mechanisms and solutions, but also the whole of society.

And in this crucial wave of solidarity, we have important initiatives in the country, such as the Voice of the Community in the city of Rio de Janeiro with the “Pandemia with Empathy” project to help vulnerable families. We also highlight the Dendezeiro, an initiative of the city of Salvador, with the aim of distributing masks in the communities.

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