Water, sanitation and hygiene: World Leaders' Call to Action on COVID-19
Until there is a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, there is no better cure than prevention.
Water, sanitation and hand hygiene, together with physical distancing, are central to preventing the spread of COVID-19, and a first line of defence against this serious threat to lives and health systems. Handwashing with water and soap kills the virus but requires access to running water in sufficient quantities.
Our response plans – at national, regional and global levels – must therefore prioritize water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Leaders that recognize the role of water, sanitation and hygiene in preventing the spread of COVID-19, will save lives. Leaders that prioritize international collaboration and support, will save lives. We are only as healthy as the most vulnerable members of society, no matter in which country they are.
Hence, we call on all national, regional and global leaders to join us in:
Making water, sanitation and hygiene available to everyone, eliminating inequalities and leaving no one behind, taking care of those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. This includes the elderly, people with disabilities, women and girls, and those living in precarious situations, such as in informal settlements, refugee camps, detention centres, homeless people, as well as those people whose livelihoods are limited or destroyed by measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus, and women who shoulder the vast majority of unpaid care work in crisis. These measures are critical, not just to protect these vulnerable populations from COVID-19, but also to prevent other infectious diseases that can spread when water, sanitation and hygiene services are disrupted.Working collaboratively with all stakeholders in a coordinated manner to improve water and sanitation services, as each actor, whether public, private, donor or civil society has something to offer to protect populations from COVID-19. Coordinated action is more effective, including urgent immediate action to establish handwashing facilities within health care facilities and at entrance points to public or private commercial buildings and public transport facilities, Partnerships such as Sanitation and Water for All are key platforms for national, regional and international cooperation and exchange of experiences.
Ensuring that water and sanitation systems are resilient and sustainable in order to protect people’s health and support national health systems. Service providers for water, sanitation and hygiene including utilities and informal providers will have difficulties to maintain or expand services at a time of reduced financial flows restricted movement. This is both a short-term and a long-term requirement to save lives. Undisrupted global supply chains, including movement of goods and production capacity, for water, sanitation and hygiene commodities and services must be maintained at all costs. Water, sanitation and hygiene workers must also be grated sufficient protection to be able to provide us with such services without disruption.
Prioritizing the mobilization of finance to support countries in their response to this crisis. Any financing directed at supporting emergency interventions must have long-term solutions already in mind. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene must be affordable to all, and this may require additional funding to support service providers and help those who cannot afford it. Funding envelopes need to be maintained with no diversion away from the commitments and priorities set for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. This includes avoiding any shifts in domestic funding allocations that support WASH services and sustained support by international donors for on-going water, sanitation and hygiene humanitarian responses, and broader Grand Bargain commitments.
Delivering accurate information in a transparent manner. Consistent and rational messaging based on scientific advice that is accessible to everyone will help people to understand the threat and enable everyone to act accordingly.
COVID-19 is not the first and will not be the last epidemic that countries will face. Resilience to future crises depends on actions taken now, as well as on policies, institutions and capacity put in place during normal times. Let us ensure this threat is not a missed opportunity to achieve our vision of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
As leaders, this is our chance to save lives.
Heads of State/ Heads of Government
Alexander Van Der Bellen
Federal President, Austria
Abdel Fattah El Sisi
Bidhya Devi Bhandari
Prime Minister, Spain
Roch Marc Kaboré
President, Burkina Faso
Omar Al Razzaz
Prime Minister, Jordan
Iván Duque Márquez
President, The Gambia
Carlos Alvarado Quesada
President, Costa Rica
Juan Orlando Hernández
Prime Minister, Eswatini
UN Agencies and other international organizations
Amina J. Mohammed
Deputy Secretary General, United Nations
Director General, WHO
High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR
President of the IFAD, Chair of UN-Water
Executive Director, UNICEF
Director General, IOM
Secretary General, IFRC
Michelle Bachelet Jeria
High Commissioner, OHCHR
Coordinator, SUN Movement
International Financial Institutions
Luis Alberto Moreno
President, Inter-American Development Bank
Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, The World Bank
Bilateral Development Partners
Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Finland
Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland
Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany
Acting Administrator, USAID
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, The Netherlands
The United Kingdom
President and CEO, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Global Manager, H&M Foundation
Chairman, Banka BioLoo
Director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Cristino L. Panlilio
President, Balibago Waterworks Philippines
President, Black & Veatch’s Water Business
Jessica Lopez Saffie
Executive President, Chilean Water Association ANDESS
Civil Society Organizations
Global CEO, Amref Health Africa and Co-Chair UHC 2030
Jonathan T.M. Reckford
CEO, Habitat for Humanity International
Chair, Water Integrity Network
Founder and CEO, Project Maji
Acting Secretary General, CARE
Chairperson, Slum Dwellers International
Executive Director (Interim), OXFAM International
Muhammad Shahid Amin Khan
International Human Rights Commission
Chair, End Water Poverty
Jennifer Tisdel Schorsch
CEO, Water For People
Millennium Water Alliance Board of Directors
CEO, Habitat for Humanity Great Britain
Dr. Paul O’Connell
Managing Director, WaterEquity
President and CEO, World Vision International
Interim CEO, Mercy Corps
Research and Learning
Claire E. Sterk
Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute
Co-founder, Executive Director, The Center for Water Security and Cooperation
Director General, IWMI
David M. Malone
Rector, United Nations University
President and vice-chancellor, University of Technology Sydney
Chair, IRC WASH
Director, Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub
CEO, IRC WASH
Meike van Ginneken
CEO, SNV Netherlands
Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, The Netherlands
Special Envoy of WHO Director-General on COVID-19
Professor at Cambridge and Chair of the Compliance, Committee of the Protocol on Water and Health
Sanitation and Water for All global partnership
High-Level Chair, Sanitation and Water for All
Catarina de Albuquerque
Chief Executive Officer, Sanitation and Water for All
Honorable Kevin Rudd
Access to clean water and sanitation is absolutely crucial to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is particularly important in countries with fragile healthcare systems or where social distancing is harder. The support from world leaders for this Call to Action is a strong demonstration of their support for the work of the United Nations’ partnership Sanitation and Water for All. Now we need to make sure this political message turns into additional practical action on the ground, especially as the risk of a third wave of this virus across a number of developing countries increases.SWA High-level Chair
The Call for Action must be seen as one of the stepping stones to the acceleration of the SDG 6 of the Agenda 2030 under the collaborative partnership of UN Water, considering the entire water cycle as essential to answer to the current and future water challenges.Swiss Federal Councillor
Refugees and other displaced people are among the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society, and they are particularly at risk during this crisis because many of them have limited access to water, sanitation systems and health facilities. As such, they frequently face specific challenges that must be taken into consideration in COVID-19 readiness and response plans. This important Leadership Call to Action will help protect those in need. Only by keeping the most vulnerable safe can we keep everyone safe.High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR
The SWA’s call to action demonstrates the very strong global consensus about how essential water and sanitation services are to saving lives. However we all have much more to do to provide water and sanitation for all, not just now in the current crisis but also in the future and to meet SDG targets.President, AquaFed
Dr. Paul O’Connell
The COVID-19 global pandemic highlights the critical need for increased investment to accelerate access to safe water and sanitation for all. If we are to reduce the impact of this and future pandemics, we must ensure these two vital needs are met.Managing Director, WaterEquity
Water.org is proud to stand beside our sector leaders and stakeholders to highlight the urgent need to prioritize water and sanitation now. Financing sustainable solutions that strengthen services and systems for all will allow us to emerge stronger and more resilient to future shock. Invest in water today.President Water.org
This Call to Action should serve as a reminder that we are still far from the goal of safe water and sanitation for all. During this pandemic, we must take immediate action to support people living in vulnerable circumstances, and at the same time plan for more long-term investments. Let us use the current crisis as an opportunity to accelerate our progress towards achieving the goal of universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene!Executive Director, SIWI
During this extraordinary public crisis, we know that the people we serve have the least access to services and face the greatest risk of infection. We strongly support Sanitation and Water For All and the Leaders’ Call to Action on COVID-19 to benefit everyone, everywhere.Co-founder Water.org & WaterEquity
Water and sanitation have come to much greater importance now, when the world battles with unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19. The water sector cuts across every aspect of the World Bank Group’s immediate response to the pandemic. We are proud to join development partners and leaders in this sector in mobilizing around a call for the prioritization of water, sanitation and hygiene.Managing Director, The World Bank
COVID-19 is shining an unforgiving spotlight on the inequalities, hardships and global health risks that stem from our failure to uphold the human right to water and sanitation. IWMI wholeheartedly supports this call to action to address inadequate water supply and support future phases of recovery and resilience.Director General, IWMI
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a deadline for endorsing the Call to Action?
The process of endorsing the statement will remain open even after launching. Heads of State, Heads of Government, Heads of UN and other Development Agencies, Chairs of Non-Governmental Organisations, CEOs of Private Sector Companies, and Deans/Provosts/Chancellors or Presidents/Heads of Research and Learning Organisations can endorse the statement and join the global call at any time.
To endorse the Call to Action kindly email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the objective of this Call to Action?
The objective is to bring attention at the highest political level to the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene as the first line of defence against the spread of COVID-19 - together with physical distancing. It will be used to call upon leaders everywhere to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to all without discrimination, ensure that systems supporting them are resilient, and above all provide the financing necessary to do this in a sustainable way. It also draws attention to the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene after COVID-19 and to prevent any future outbreaks.
Who can use this Call to Action and for which purpose?
Everyone can use this Call to Action.
Governments: As a member of government responsible for water, sanitation and/or hygiene, you can use this Call to Action to advocate for the political prioritization of these issues, as well as increase its budgetary allocations.
Civil Society: As a member of a civil society or non-profit organization, you can use it as an advocacy tool to press upon your government to implement what it calls for and to sign it if they haven’t already done so.
Private Sector: As individuals, you can call upon your elected officials to press the government to implement it and to sign it if they haven’t already done so.
External Support Agency such as a donor, development bank, UN agency: This call to action can be used to facilitate discussions for additional support for water, sanitation and hygiene during and after COVID19. The Call to Action also provides ideas on what can be done to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene are prioritised during this crisis.
As a civil society, private sector or academic organization, you can call upon your Head of State/Government to sign if they haven’t already done so. You can also hold them to account to making ensuring more targeted financing for better more equitable access to services that are sustainable and resilient and for systems that can support them during this crisis and beyond.
You can view/download the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) 2019 Report to see how much money your government is currently allocating (if data on your country is available).
Are there materials that I can use in my advocacy efforts to promote this Call to Action?
Yes, there are plenty of material for information, advocacy, messaging available on our website’s special COVID-19 pages and we invite you to please read them and use them in your advocacy.
What will be the follow up to this Call to Action?
This Call to Action is a tool for partners and specially ministers responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene to advocate for more targeted financing for better more equitable access to services that are sustainable and resilient and for systems that can support them during this crisis and beyond. The Sanitation and Water for All partnership is working on the development of specific follow-up actions that will be taken by each partner as a result of this Call to Action. These will be published as soon as they are available.
Can only SWA partners sign this Call to Action or is it open for other actors?
Any actor – even if not an SWA partner – can join this Call to Action. If you would also like to become a partner, we advise you to visit this page and follow the simple instructions.
My Head of State/Head of Government has not endorsed this statement. What can I do to get them to endorse it?
You can get them to endorse through elected Members of Parliament representing you, your local government representatives, social media (by tagging the official accounts of your Head of State/Head of Government and calling upon them to sign), as well as through sending emails or requests through the official channels listed on their websites.
Can I endorse this statement or is it just for leaders?
At this stage, the statement is just for leaders because we want to create a push for political prioritisation. Soon we will have a public statement that can be endorsed by individuals/private persons.
Beyond the call to action, how can I join the conversation on WASH and COVID-19 and support the SWA mission during and after this pandemic?
If your organisation/ government is not a partner already and would like to become one, please visit this page and follow the simple instructions so it can become a partner. You can also join the SWA COVID-19 related webinars on our website.
Please also join the conversation by following us on social media and share SWA materials with your networks.
Follow-up actions to the Call to Action. What can you do?
Everyone can use the Call to Action to promote the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in the context of COVID-19 and beyond. SWA has created a brochure on the follow-up actions to the Call to Action to further help partners mobilize governments on ongoing work in the sector.
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