Today, November 20, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention, that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989, aims to protect the rights of all children, everywhere to be free from discrimination, violence and neglect.
This year is special in many ways– as children themselves are standing up for their rights. To protest a lack of government action on the climate crisis, 16 children, including Greta Thunberg, filed a landmark complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. However, as we celebrate the progress made over the last three decades, let’s not forget those who are left behind.
At the 2019 SWA Sector Ministers’ Meeting, Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said,
“Unsafe water can be as deadly as bullets or bombs. Children under 15 are almost three times more likely to die from diseases linked to unsafe water and sanitation — like diarrhoea or cholera — than from direct violence.”
It's obvious that children need access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene to live a healthy life– but for many, their childhood is cut short. More than 800 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Lack of access to water and sanitation also has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights, such as the right to education, more so for girls who are on their periods. One in four primary schools have no drinking water service, with children using unprotected sources or going thirsty. Globally, around discrimination, violence and neglect do not have a basic sanitation service at school. Nearly 900 million children worldwide lacked a basic hygiene service at their school. Moreover, the children living in fragile and conflict-affected countries are twice as likely to lack basic sanitation — and four times as likely to lack basic drinking water.
The elimination of inequalities is one of SWA’s Guiding Principles- this is the value that partners have in common– one that guides joint action. The SWA global multi-stakeholder partnership exists to mobilize its partners to better work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals including to ensure that no one is left behind. Through collaboration and mutual accountability, governments along with its development partners could work to improve the access to water, sanitation and hygiene services and create lasting and resilient systems.
At Sanitation and Water we are focusing on the child rights to water, sanitation and hygiene- to not just create a conversation around those left behind but also look at solutions that could help support development in the decades ahead.