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"Today, our definition of peace must include ensuring that all our sisters and brothers have access to WASH and whatever they need to ensure their human rights,” said Renata Lok-Dessallien, the UN Resident Coordinator for India, emphasizing that the world beyond this pandemic must be "better, fairer, and bigger and interventions in WASH must leave no one behind."
The webinar was organized on 22 September 2020, to address specific and diversified challenges and needs of vulnerable groups in the planning and implementation of sanitation and hygiene initiatives across India.
Organized by WSSCC in partnership with Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA), the online discussion forum presented the recommendations resulting from a consultation with representatives of 14 vulnerable groups held in Rishikesh, India, in December 2019.
Highlighting the key lessons learned, Mr Ramisetty Murali of FANSA said that the greatest need is for a comprehensive national-level guideline that enables each state to map out marginalized and vulnerable communities and track their specific progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 within a stipulated timeframe.
"Technologies and solutions that are effective in improving the accessibility of water points, toilets and hygiene facilities for persons facing limitations due to age, physical condition, sexual orientation, and so on need to be organized into a compendium of solutions and widely circulated to improve knowledge and practices in the WASH sector," concluded Mr Murali.
Mr Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Minister of Jal Shakti (water resources), said that the government aims to ensure that no one is left behind and every household in the country gets assured drinking water supply in adequate quantity and of the prescribed quality.
Mr Up Singh, Secretary of the Department of Water and Sanitation, informed participants that in the past year, over 20 million households had been provided with tap water connections and that more than 100,000 families are given tap water connections each day.
The December consultation in Rishikesh aimed to collect information on the experience of vulnerable groups in accessing WASH after the successful conclusion of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission, or SBM, which led to India being declared open defecation-free (ODF) at end 2019.
It included youth; women; older persons; persons with disabilities; people living with HIV; transgenders and LGBTIQ; sex workers; manual scavengers; Dalits; Adivasis; farmers; the urban poor; shanty dwellers and the homeless; and migrants and refugees.
Mr Vinod Mishra, the National Coordinator of WSSCC in India, said, "Through the SBM, the government launched the biggest collective behaviour change campaign, and within five years we achieved 100 percent coverage. Now, the government is targeting Open Defecation Free Plus programmes for sustainability to cater and reach out to the last mile, to solve the problem so that no one is left behind. WSSCC will work with the national government and provide support to scale up the activities."
"We can never allow leaving no one behind to remain just a slogan. It must be a political commitment. We call upon global leaders, including national governments, to scale up household sanitation and hygiene services," said Sue Coates, Deputy Executive Director of WSSCC.