'Health risks' study backs water challenge

23 May 2007 - 4:20pm
Press release

The partner, the Anti-Privatisation Forum in South Africa, says research in the country's biggest city, Johannesburg, shows that over three-quarters of those with enforced prepaid meters never wash their hands with flowing tap water. This compares with 44 per cent of people who do not have prepaid meters.

Almost one in five South Africans is HIV-positive and their carers need access to water. Estimates suggest that nearly a fifth of the world's infectious diseases are related to water, sanitation and hygiene. Each year almost two million children die each year from diarrhoea-linked illness.

The study was conducted in the Johannesburg township Soweto by health experts for the Municipal Services Project. The APF says the report strengthens a current legal case brought by a coalition, including the APF, that the instalment of prepaid water meters and restrictions on water allocation are unlawful and unconstitutional. The challenge is made by the Coalition Against Water Privatisation against the company Johannesburg Water, the City of Johannesburg and South Africa's water affairs and forestry minister, Lindiwe Hendricks.

The City of Johannesburg offers a free basic water allowance of 6.000 litres a month for all households. But the APF says this allowance is not available to households in shanty towns and those using communal taps. And this allocation only allows a household with eight people to flush its toilet once a day.

The APF's claims coincide with talks today and tomorrow (23-24 May) in the Dutch city The Hague among funders of the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility, a World Bank agency which promotes water privatisation. Britain is by far the largest donor, contributing more than half of the PPIAF's budget, an amount which totals £53m from 1999-2008. War on Want says the Italian government has shamed the UK and other donors by announcing its withdrawal. The charity urges Britain and 11 others donors to withdraw support from the facility amid a call for this move from more than 138 civil society groups and trade unions in 48 countries.

Silumko Radebe, organiser of the APF, said: "Poor people in South Africa do not welcome the privatisation of water delivery. It has resulted in limited access to water and turned water from a public good into a commodity."

Wendy Willems, programmes officer for War on Want, said: "This new research provides damning evidence that privatising water delivery poses serious health risks to many poor people in Soweto. Britain and other donors should follow Italy's lead by withdrawing funds to the World Bank push for more water sell-offs. And the Johannesburg high court must rule that the unilateral decision to impose prepaid meters was both illegal and unconstitutional and should be replaced with enough water for all people."


CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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