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UN Special Rapporteur Highlights Climate and Water Challenges in Tuvalu

19 July 2012: Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water, highlighted that the impacts of climate change are exacerbating water and sanitation challenges in Tuvalu. She recommend the Government of Tuvalu immediately adopt and implement its draft Water Act and its Sustainable and Integrated Water and Sanitation Policy.

De Albuquerque warned that climate change impacts Tuvaluans' rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, as it intensifies water scarcity, sea level rise, saltwater intrusions and the frequency of extreme weather events. She noted that the figures contained in a recent joint World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) that indicate that a high percentage of the population has improved access to water and sanitation facilities “do not portray an accurate picture of the country's situation and mask severe challenges currently faced by its population.” For example, while Tuvaluans now have increased access to water via storage tanks, this water is not available in sufficient quantities and must be boiled.

De Albuquerque also stressed affordability concerns in access to water and sanitation, cautioning that Government's promotion of composting toilets and new water tariffs may make the cost of water and sanitation unaffordable for households with lower incomes.  She noted that people should not have to choose between paying for education, food, housing, sanitation and water.

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) appoints non-paid Special Rapporteurs as independent experts to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. De Albuquerque will report on her mission to Tuvalu, as well as a forthcoming mission to Kiribati, at a forthcoming session of the Council. [UN Press Release]