Watch: WSSCC Executive Chair’s video message on the COVID-19 pandemic

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GENEVA - Ms Hind Khatib-Othman, Executive Chair of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, is calling upon world leaders to commit to the establishment of a new global Fund to develop and implement the community-based sanitation and hygiene solutions, and prevent future pandemics.

Transcript - Calling for a global fund dedicated to sanitation and hygiene 

With the spread of coronavirus, we know that advanced economies are struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Emerging and developing countries are facing collective threats to human life as well as economic devastation.

The virus is now reaching countries with fragile health systems and weak institutions with the potential of creating a huge number of dead people, especially among the most vulnerable. And let's not forget the refugees population as well as the internally displaced.

We were pleased to see that the world is coming together to actually put a quick response to support the efforts to contain COVID-19. And last week, the G20 countries have pledged immediate support for a large number of health institutions. Most importantly, WHO to support replenish their COVID Solidarity Response Fund, as well as to CEPI, which is the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation, as well as GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

All three organizations play an important role in the containment of COVID-19, but also CEPI has an important role to ensure that we have the right vaccine on the market to be used to prevent COVID-19 in the future.

Coronavirus, in recent weeks and days has made social distancing as well as regular hand-washing very much part of our daily routine.

However, these simple measures cannot really be observed in certain setups across the world and mainly in hugely densely populated areas such as in urban settlements as well as in areas where they lack water and sanitation services. And we know that from all the different guidance that WHO has been putting over the last few months and weeks on how do we protect ourselves from viruses such as COVID-19, that actually the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic practices are critical and essential to prevent outbreaks from infectious diseases such as, including COVID-19.

While this is very important to hear, it's important that we turn and look at the progress on the SDG 6.2, which is the SDG on sanitation and hygiene.

We know that, that specific as SDG is lagging behind. And right now, some 3 billion people, mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, are actually living without basic hand-washing facilities in their own homes. And there are 900 million children across the world that do not have basic sanitary services, hygiene and sanitary services in their own schools.

At the current rate of progress, this SDG will only be achieved in the 22nd century. And we know that this is not acceptable in the wake of the pandemic, nor will it prevent future epidemics. And from where I sit as the chair of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, an organization that mostly is working on sanitation, we feel that this is not acceptable.

We have been putting some resources in a small number of countries and we have seen progress. But it is a limited progress and we know that the gaps and the agenda is really big ahead of us.

I'm calling on leaders of the world to help, to commit to the establishment of a global fund, a global fund for sanitation and hygiene, to be able to address this impossible situation that people are living under without the basic services of sanitation and hygiene.

The fund will operate as similar to other funds in the health sector, such as GAVI Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria by providing catalytic resources, catalytic resources that will have stronger engagement with governments will actually unleash domestic resources and support in the proper development of national strategies to ensure that we leave no one behind, we reach everybody with the services that they need and alleviate the difficult conditions they are living under, alleviate poverty and encourage and improve and enhance the well-being of the population in those countries.

So I do call and I do hope that I will get the support to ensure that such funds will be created in support of this important sector.

Finally, I would like to also, on behalf of the WSSCC family, to acknowledge the tireless efforts of people that are working in the frontlines of COVID-19. Those who are actually working day and night to ensure that we are safe and healthy.

The health workers, the caregivers, the social workers, the cashiers and supermarkets. Well, without their support, without their work to keep us safe and healthy, we would not be where we are today. I thank them and wish them also well during this difficult time.