The report summarises research carried out by the ERRC, between 2014 – 2016, covering 93 Romani neighbourhoods and settlements in Albania, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovakia.
The research reveals that large segments of Europe’s Roma continue to be denied or disadvantaged in their access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Even in states and regions where safe water supply and sanitation services were available to almost every non Roma household, researchers found that Roma populations are still often systemically discriminated against in their access to these essential services. In the sites that were investigated, Roma living in legal settlements or neighbourhoods were no less likely to be deprived of water than those in unofficial sites.
In more than half of the visited places (52.69%), the nearest water source was more than 150 m away. In some places, Roma were forced to walk several kilometres to access water. Distant water resources present a major risk to public health from insufficient sanitation.
For more than 40% of the surveyed Roma, obtaining water necessitated using a dangerous route. Roma often have to get over fences and walls, cross highways, trespass on private property or be confronted by stray dogs in order to get their daily water. The burden of collecting this water falls mainly on women and girls, thus compounding their discrimination.
A near universal lack of indoor toilets means that women and girls also have to cross hazardous terrain and risk harassment by day and night, just to use a toilet. Research showed that only 12% of Roma had a functioning mechanical toilet, with over 75% using outdoor pit latrines. Frequently the only water source or dry toilet is shared with tens of other people at best.
In the absence of a public water supply, Roma often have no other choice but to rely on untreated and unprotected water sources like self-made wells, natural springs, and rivers, all of which can be a breeding grounds for diseases. These sources are rarely tested to ensure safety and are exposed to a wide range of contaminants, including from the dry toilets (pit latrines), insects, and animals. In some cases even when public water is accessible to Roma, it is still unaffordable for many.
“To be forced to live without running water and toilet today in Europe is inhumane and degrading. States must adopt laws that explicitly recognise the human right to water and sanitation, and ensure that everyone enjoys equal access to water”, said Đorđe Jovanović, ERRC president.
Media Program Coordinator