Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) - a global partnership of governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners has launched an international campaign to expand access to water, sanitation and hygiene – a key part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The platform urged governments and global development partners to incorporate a more robust focus on water, sanitation and hygiene in the fight against the pandemic, a call to action that more than 50 Heads of State, leaders of United Nations agencies, International Financial Institutions, civil society, the private sector and academic institutions have endorsed.
The Hon. Kevin Rudd, SWA’s High-level Chair, said in a press statement, “Access to clean water and sanitation is absolutely crucial to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is particularly important in countries with fragile healthcare systems or where social distancing is harder. The support from world leaders for this Call to Action is a strong demonstration of their support for the work of the United Nations’ partnership Sanitation and Water for All.” Rudd added, “Now we need to make sure this political message turns into additional practical action on the ground, especially as the risk of a third wave of this virus across a number of developing countries increases.”
The SWA statement(le lien est externe) invited global leaders and communities to join in making water, sanitation and hygiene available to everyone, eliminating inequalities and leaving no one behind. The statement also calls for all stakeholders to work in a coordinated and collaborative manner; ensure that water and sanitation systems are resilient and sustainable; prioritize the mobilization of finance to support countries in their response to this crisis; and deliver accurate information in a transparent manner.
In response, a number of global leaders including African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina endorsed the pledge.
According to the statement, “water, sanitation and hand hygiene, together with physical distancing, are central to preventing the spread of COVID-19, and a first line of defense against this serious threat to lives and health systems. Handwashing with water and soap kills the virus but requires access to running water in sufficient quantities.”
“400 million Africans lack access to safe water and nearly 800 million do not have access to basic handwashing facilities – a massive challenge in the face of COVID-19.” said Dr. Jennifer Blanke, Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. “The African Development Bank is leading the fight in support of African nations to mobilize resources and support from partner organizations as well as the private sector to reduce the water and sanitation access gap.”
The African Development Bank has taken a lead role in African responses to the crisis and its effects. The Bank last month rolled out its COVID-19 Response Facility, which will serve as its primary channel for efforts to address the crisis by providing up to $10 billion to governments and the private sector.
The Bank has over the last decade invested an estimated $6.2 billion in water supply and sanitation services, and mobilized an estimated $150 million in climate finance from the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund to co-finance water sector projects. As a result, roughly 52 million Africans have gained access to improved water supply and sanitation services.
One such project, the Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project for Mzimba Town in Malawi, co-financed by the African Development Bank and the OPEC Fund, received in April the prestigious Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development. “The recognition is timely given that the project is rapidly expanding access to water supply and sanitation to communities, while promoting good hygiene practices such as hand washing with soap,” said Adesina.
The SWA statement emphasizes that “COVID-19 is not the first and will not be the last epidemic that countries will face. Resilience to future crises depends on actions taken now, as well as on policies, institutions and capacity put in place during normal times. Let us ensure this threat is not a missed opportunity to achieve our vision of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene.”