UN-backed fund to address crisis in global sanitation and hygiene

17 November 2020

A UN-backed fund, launched on Tuesday, is set to take on the centuries-old crisis centred around sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health, which now impacts more than four billion people across the world. 

Speaking, via a video message, at the launch of the Fund, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed described safe sanitation and hygiene as “critical to the response that we want to see, first, because it is about human dignity; second, it is a health issue.” 

Many of the world’s most serious diseases stem from poor sanitation and hygiene, the coronavirus pandemic has blown the lid off this fact, with over three billion lacking access to basic hand washing facilities – a key action to keep the virus at bay. 

“Basic hygiene of washing your hands and being able to have a toilet that is accessible is key [to enabling healthy communities] in the longer term,” stressed Ms. Mohammed. 

The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund is hosted by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), a specialized UN entity providing service, technical advice and implementing projects for the Organization and partners globally.  

A global financing mechanism, the Fund will provide accelerated funding to countries with the heaviest burden and least ability to respond, focusing on four strategic objectives: expanding household sanitation; ensuring menstrual health and hygiene; providing sanitation and hygiene in schools and healthcare facilities; and supporting innovative sanitation solutions.  

It aims to raise $2 billion over the next five years to support the efforts. 

‘A great equalizer’ 

Even though proper sanitation is at the core of development to any community, family or individual, over 600 million schools and countless households do not toilets and many lack basic sanitation services. 

Terming sanitation and hygiene as “a great equalizer for children”, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), called on countries to treat sanitation as a public good.   

“During a lockdown, how do you cope with the fact that your household does not have a toilet? This is particularly difficult for girls and women. If everyone had access to sanitation and hygiene in households, in their schools, in their health facilities and communities, it would make an enormous difference in our world,” she said. 

“Good sanitation has to be a public good. Governments have to own the fact that sanitation is their problem to solve, and that they have ways to solve it,” added Ms. Fore.


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Three billion people globally lack handwashing facilities at home: UNICEF

Although handwashing with soap is vital in the fight against infectious diseases, including COVID-19, billions of people around the world do not have ready access to a place to do it, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.