A new report by the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP) has found that access to water and sanitation is still a challenge in some European countries, informs the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
The report, titled ‘The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in Practice’, was released by UN agencies at the 5th Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health, an international agreement to protect human health and well-being through better water management, including the protection of water ecosystems, and by preventing, controlling and reducing water-related diseases. The Protocol provides a framework for putting into practice the human rights to water and sanitation.
While currently most Europeans take clean drinking water for granted, the results of this report indicate that 31 million people don’t have access to basic sanitation, 48 million people do not have piped water at their home, and more than 300,000 people practice open defecation, most of them in rural areas. The findings come from self-assessments by 11 countries in the pan-European region: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, North Macedonia, Moldova, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine.
Specific results by countries include a lack of awareness about human rights by authorities, discrimination against minorities, and inadequate menstrual hygiene management facilities at public locations such as schools and hospitals. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has stated that there is ‘a long way to go’ to improve access to water sanitation in order to achieve SDG 6 targets. Recommendations to countries include reducing geographical disparities in services, address discrimination of vulnerable groups and guarantee service affordability.