Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene for global recovery and resilience

Sokha, 32, washes her hands in front of the Thlork Vien health centre in Chhouk Village, Samaki Meanchey District, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia.
Image: WaterAid/Remissa Mak

The world’s leading donor countries will meet as the Group of 7 under the UK Presidency in Cornwall in June, and as the Group of 20 chaired by Italy in October. As officials determine the agenda for these two summits, we offer the following recommendations to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is part of the global agenda for recovery from COVID-19 and resilience to climate change.

The devastating combination of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens lives and livelihoods the world over, with a disproportionate impact falling on the world’s poorest people. These threats, exacerbated by increasing inequalities and a looming debt crisis, highlight systemic flaws in our global economy.

We now have a critical opportunity to shift towards healthier, more sustainable economies, and equitable societies that work for both people and planet. In 2021, more than any other year, the international community expects the world’s most powerful governments to step up – setting out ambitious and comprehensive plans to address the ongoing and unequal impacts of the COVID-19 and climate crises.

As the G7 and G20 chart an ambitious agenda for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic – while committing to mitigate and adapt to climate change – it is essential that their efforts look beyond their own borders to protect our collective wellbeing. Strengthening the provision of essential services like WASH in the most vulnerable communities builds resilience to climate change, future pandemics and emerging global health threats such as antimicrobial resistance.

We call on the 2021 G7 and G20 summits to:

  • End the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting an equitable roll out of vaccines hand-in-hand with hygiene behaviour change. 
  • Integrate WASH in global pandemic preparedness plans and reform of global health architecture.
  • Deliver catalytic funding, with an initial contribution of at least US $1.2 billion, to kickstart universal access to WASH in healthcare facilities in least developed countries (LDCs).
  • Provide new and additional international finance for climate adaptation, especially for locally led projects, that help meet the basic needs of the most affected communities – including access to WASH.
  • Commit to an emergency recovery funding package comprised of comprehensive debt relief and restructuring; a new issuance and reallocation of at least $1 trillion in special drawing rights; fulfilling commitments to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid; and innovative sources of international public finance. 

Top image: Sokha washing her hands in front of the Thlork Vien health centre, Chhouk Village, Thlork Vien Commune, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia.