Thank you for contacting me about water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries.
Safe water and adequate sanitation are basic human needs. It is a regrettable fact that for so many on our planet these needs remain unmet, particularly in developing and conflict-ridden states. This was true before the pandemic and has worsened since. Indeed, as UNICEF reports, of the sixty countries identified as having the highest risk of health and humanitarian crises due to COVID-19, two thirds of people – a billion in total – lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home; around half of whom are children.
I am proud of the UK's action on this issue, or UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. The UK Government pledged to provide 60 million people with improved water and sanitation between 2015 and 2020. FCDO Ministers confirmed that the UK met and exceeded this target in August last year, helping 62.6 million people access clean water and sanitation, of which 26.2 million were based in fragile states.
In the first phase of the pandemic response, the UK Government provided £20 million directly to UNICEF for urgent COVID-19 support including for water, sanitation and hygiene. Last year the UK also partnered with Unilever to establish the Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition, with an investment of £50 million, funding matched by Unilever. This partnership has provided 2.6 million WASH products and services to over 10,000 health care facilities to strengthen their hygiene and infection prevention and control practices, and it will continue in 2021.
Going forward, the UK is also continuing to support the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, bringing together donors, the private sector and NGOs to help governments increase access to WASH services in healthcare facilities. This is just one part of the UK's ambition as President of the G7 this year to build back better globally from the pandemic.
Aid Spending: Crises demand tough choices. The decision by the UK to cut aid spending by 0.2 per cent is one of these. That said, the UK will still be spending £10 billion on aid this year and thus will remain an international development superpower. I am assured it will return to pre-pandemic levels as soon as the fiscal situation allows.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP