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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have voiced their support for a universal right to have access to clean drinking water in a letter to a Nigerian organization currently fighting a water privatization effort backed by the World Bank.

“We are deeply concerned that low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately affected when water is managed with greater attention to profit margins than to human rights,” read part of the letter, which was addressed to Akinbode Oluwafemi, director of corporate accountability at Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, the lead organization fighting the privatization effort.

“We share your concerns that a move towards privatization of the water scheme in Lagos, including public-private partnerships, could leave the city vulnerable to the negative impacts historically associated with various forms of water privatization, including rate hikes, worker layoffs, service interruptions, and failures to adequately invest in infrastructure,” added the letter, which was signed by 23 members of the Caucus, including candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), and Baltimore’s own U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D).

The letter draws on the experience of two American cities, Detroit, Mich., and Baltimore, Md., as examples to avoid over their policy of residential water shut-offs, referring to the service interruptions as “inhumane” and noting that Detroit’s practice has garnered the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water.

In Baltimore, the city resumed its residential water shut-offs for customers with delinquent accounts this past April, prompting demonstrations and calls for the city to postpone shut-offs until it had resolved a number of concerns over the accuracy of the bills, which could not only lead to a service interruption if unpaid, but even the loss of the home through a controversial practice known as a “tax sale”.

ralejandro@afro.com