n South African Law Journal - Is the constitutional court wasting away the rights of the poor? : notes

Volume 127, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



The right to have access to adequate sanitation is not expressly provided for in the South African Constitution. In fact, virtually no international human rights instrument provides expressly for this right. This is a strange omission given the fact that individuals, if they are to function normally, have a fundamental bodily need to excrete a certain amount of bodily waste every day (whether in the form of bodily fluids or faeces). Such waste, if not disposed of in a hygienic manner, has the potential to contaminate food and water sources and to create health and environmental hazards for individuals and communities. For example, in South Africa diarrhoea is the third highest cause of death, and this disease is linked directly to poor sanitation (CSIR 'Diarrhoea third biggest killer in South Africa' available at accessed on 15 June 2010). Children are even more severely affected by a faecally contaminated environment, with diarrhoea being recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF as a major killer of children under the age of five (South African Water Research Commission 'Rural poor struggling up the sanitation ladder' available at accessed on 15 June 2010). What makes such statistics unfortunate is that the Director General of the WHO has stated that '[w]e have today a full menu of low cost technical options for the provision of sanitation in most settings' (ibid).

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