SWA, UNICEF wants world leaders to prioritise sanitation, water facilities

The Sanitation and Water for All partnership (SWA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have urged world leaders to invest in water and sanitation facilities to avoid the risk of another pandemic.

The Chief Executive Officer, SWA, Ms Catarina de Albuquerque, said this in a statement.

SWA links up governments, donors, civil society and multilateral organisations to work together and take action to tackle the sanitation and water crisis.

Albuquerque called on world leaders to learn from the mistakes of the COVID-19 pandemic and invest in sanitation facilities.

“Leaders and decision-makers have a choice. Our mistakes during COVID-19 have demonstrated the immense cost of inaction, but we have the wisdom to learn from them.

“We can invest heavily in pandemic prevention and mitigation, including ensuring that communities everywhere have access to clean water, and reliable hygiene and sanitation services.

“Or we can ignore the catastrophic lessons learned, placing the world at grave risk for future public health threats.

“We do not have to wait for the next pandemic to take action. There are other global health crises happening right now, responsible for the deaths of millions that can be solved by prioritising the provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

“From cholera to coronavirus, the message for government leaders is clear: ‘if we want to get ahead of the next pandemic, we must urgently invest in water, sanitation, and hygiene.’

“To make any other choice could have devastating consequences,” Albuquerque said.

She said that the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadliest viral outbreak, in the world over a century might not be the last in our lifetime.

Albuquerque said that the question of another global health crisis was “not if, but when.”

She said that in spite of the imminent threat, the 2021 Global Health Security Index, estimated that 195 countries remained dangerously unprepared for future pandemics.

“Additionally, only 33 countries have emergency preparedness and response plans in place that include considerations for vulnerable populations.

“Our collective failure to invest in preventative measures means that when diseases appear they can rage out of control, destroying lives and triggering massive health crises that take decades to resolve.

“We can either allow this information to scare us or we can use it to prepare us.

“One urgent policy solution for preventing disease is universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene,” she said.

Albuquerque said that access to clean water was also vital to disease prevention beyond COVID-19.

She added that nearly 1.8 billion people use contaminated drinking water, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, polio, and typhoid fever.

Albuquerque said that inadequate management of waste was one of the attributing factors of Ebola transmission in West Africa that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

She also stated that the World Health Organisation had recommended water and sanitation improvements as a vital first line of defence.

“Our sanitation services are not just vital to stopping the spread of disease but also to understanding its impact,” she said.

Albuquerque in the statement announced SWA collaboration with UNICEF to host a meeting on how to stop infectious diseases through investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as through vigorous action on climate change.

She said that the meeting slated for May 18 and 19 in Jakarta, Indonesia, would bring together world ministers of finance and ministers of water, sanitation, health, and climate.

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