WSSCC’s response to the United Nations Secretary-General’s call to action on COVID-19

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GENEVA – The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is in full support of the action plan launched by the UN Secretary-General on Tuesday to address the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

In a new report, Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, Mr Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, laid out a three-part roadmap to suppress the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic, safeguard people’s lives and their livelihoods, and learn from this human crisis to build back better.

For its part, WSSCC has been providing its in-country implementing partners with guidance for reprogramming that allows funds to be directed to preventing, delaying and containing COVID-19 in line with government and advice from the World Health Organization. Recognizing the challenges facing many partners in conducting regular field work during the pandemic, WSSCC is providing technical guidance about alternative approaches to hygiene promotion.

As the Secretary-General stated in the report, without global solidarity and support, many people will remain beyond the reach of global efforts to contain the virus. It is therefore critical to take coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action and maximize financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.

As successful response and recovery requires international cooperation and partnerships at every level, WSSCC is working with partners under the established coordination mechanism to improve sanitation and hygiene for those most left behind and least able to respond.

Handwashing and basic hygiene are clearly essential to stopping the spread of coronavirus. Yet three billion people – mainly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – do not have the means to wash their hands in their homes. Worldwide, 900 million children do not have clean toilets and handwashing facilities at school.

In least developed countries, the people most often left behind and least able to respond are the most vulnerable to the spread of pandemics.

As the Secretary-General insisted, we must tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of this crisis with a focus on the most affected. Developed countries must assist those that are less developed to bolster their prevention and response capacities.

But even when the coronavirus pandemic is over, the situation of those who were most vulnerable before will likely be no better and could well be worse.

Sanitation and hygiene services are critically underfunded and at the current trajectory the Sustainable Development Goal on safely managed sanitation will not be realized until the 22nd century.

A pandemic like COVID-19 is no longer an unimaginable scenario. If we are to prevent future viral outbreaks from becoming global pandemics, we must begin with the fundamental building blocks of public health – sanitation and hygiene.

WSSCC is therefore calling on world leaders to commit to the establishment of a new global fund dedicated to helping the poorest and most vulnerable among us develop and implement the community-based sanitation and hygiene solutions that we are all entitled to, with dignity and access for all.