At current rates of progress, the Sustainable Development Goal towards sanitation and hygiene for all will not be achieved until the next century. A more optimistic outlook emerged with the launch of the new Sanitation and Hygiene Fund.
The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund provides catalytic funding to countries with the heaviest burden and least ability to respond. It focuses on four strategic objectives: expanding household sanitation; ensuring menstrual health and hygiene; providing sanitation and hygiene in schools and health care facilities; and supporting innovative sanitation solutions.
UNOPS Executive Director Grete Faremo said, “Lack of sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health remains one of the greatest barriers to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and poses a real challenge to gender equality. We all need to work together to respond to this great challenge, and UNOPS is proud to support this response.”
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by poor sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health, which limits their mobility, freedom of choice, and ability to access services and opportunities. It also puts them at greater risk of gender-based violence.
Over the next five years, the UNOPS-managed Fund will seek $2 billion to help countries deliver sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health for all people. Major investments are more crucial than ever as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has both exposed and exacerbated vast inequities in access, and demonstrated the fundamental role that sanitation and hygiene play in stopping the spread of disease.
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. 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.”
Currently, half the world’s population does not have access to safely managed sanitation. Some 623 million children attend schools that do not have toilets. One in 3 schools do not have even basic sanitation and hygiene services, and 1 in 5 healthcare facilities have no sanitation services whatsoever. The estimated cost of lack of sanitation and hygiene is $222 billion a year in lost productivity, increased health expenditures, and economic output.