One out of three children in the Greater Buenos Aires has no access or limited access to clean, drinkable water, according to a study by the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA).
UCA’s Gage of Social Responsibility Towards Children measures, among others things, children’s material comfort. According to its recent findings, 31.1 percent of children aged 2 to 17 do not have guaranteed access to clean water, a figure that has only decreased slightly from 2010’s 34.7 percent in 2010.
According to Pedro Passerini, director of the Buenos Aires chapter of NGO Un Techo Para Mi País (“A Roof For My Country”) which builds temporary housing for the continent’s poorest families, “irregular access to the public water supply system affects 41.8 percent of families in informal settlements [i.e. villas] in the region. Residents set up water systems themselves, leading to water scarcity and low water pressure. Moreover, the pipes they use are prone to rupturing, leading to loss of water as well as contamination. During the summer, when demand and consumption are at their peak, water is scarce which can cause dehydration, and other health and hygiene problems.”
UCA’s findings come on the heels of protests staged by inhabitants of villas, or slums, back in May, who rallied in front of the nation’s Water and Sanitation (AySA)’s central office demanding improved access to drinking water. AySA currently doesn’t extend its services to the villas.
Article 21 of Argentina’s Law 26.061 for the Comprehensive Protection of Girls, Boys and Adolescents states that: “Young girls, boys and adolescents have the right to a healthy, ecologically balanced environment, in the form of well-preserved and enjoyable surroundings.” Drinking water is a fundamental part of those conditions. Not only is clean water promised by the government in the aforementioned law, it is also considered a human right by the United Nations.
In October 2011, AySA and former Planning Minister Julio de Vido presented a plan that would provide drinking water to 100 percent of Greater Buenos Aires households by 2015. We clearly still have a long way to go.
Given that only 0.025 percent of the planet’s water resources are drinkable according to Greenpeace, providing clean water to all of Earth’s inhabitants (and entire populations of any individual country) is no easy task. The government launched the National Water Project earlier this year, promising a AR $208 million investment between 2016 to 2019 to make sure all Argentines have access to potable water.
If we take into account the figures of the Gage of Social Responsibility Towards Children since the start of the project in 2010, we see slight improvements. In 2010, five out of every 10 children lived with a sanitation problem (no access to running water, no flushing toilet, no sewage or similar problems). In 2014 an estimated four out of 10 children lived in a house with a sanitation problem. A lot of work remains to be done if the National Water Project is to achieve its goals.