Skip to main content

Fighting inequalities during COVID: a global discussion

Published on: 28/07/2020

SWA Partner Exchange Forum on "It can't be normal: inequalities in water, sanitation and hygiene service levels, the COVID-19 response and the future"

This blog was originally published by Sanitation and Water for All

Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership together with partners from the Research and Learning constituency, IRC and SNV organized its third Partner Exchange Forum on Wednesday 15 July 2020, on inequalities in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service levels, the COVID-19 response and the future. The forum provide a platform for learning on COVID-19 pandemic related challenges, and cross constituency exchange.

The COVID-19 pandemic is deepening inequalities in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), between those with and without access to services, and between those with better and worse levels of service. Those without or with low quality services, are less able to implement basic COVID-19 mitigation measures such as frequent hand washing with soap, social distancing and cleanliness. Relief to households is more easily extended through utilities to those with relatively better services.

Augmented challenges

While improving hygiene and practicing social distancing is difficult for many of us, it is harder for people with low service levels, or using communal or shared WASH services. It is a challenge in rural areas and low-income urban settlements, and within those areas even more so for women and people with disability. Measures so far for the WASH sector have been focused on waiving bills or providing guarantees against disconnection. Furthermore, a range of hand washing stations have been placed, hygiene promotion for hand washing has intensified and soap and disinfectant has been distributed.

All this is resource intensive and has limited durability, but most importantly, it does little for the coping capacity of people with no services, or shared services or who face difficulty using these services. If we are serious about reducing gaps, we need to prioritize household level access much more - in compliance with the SDGs - stop taking limited services as the norm, and seriously invest in high quality well-managed communal facilities where there is no other option.

Bringing voices together

During the forum, the panel discussion and interactive networking session, focused on experiences during the crisis in low-income country contexts and explored how inequalities in water, sanitation and hygiene sector play out in this pandemic, why the SDGs are more relevant than ever and what we should do in the short and medium term.

The panel was moderated by Vida Duti, Country Director, IRC Ghana, and had an opening presentation by Antoinette Kome, Global Sector Coordinator for WASH, SNV, and closing remarks by SNV CEO Meike van Ginneken.

The panelists:
  • Mr. G. Mathi Vathanan, Principle Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Government of Odisha, India
  • Mrs. Rama Dhakal, Vice-President of the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal
  • Ms. Cucu Saidah, Disability Inclusion Advisor, CBM Indonesia,
  • Mr. Arnauld Adjagodo, Advocacy officer, IRC Burkina Faso
  • Mr. Godfrey Byarughaba, WASH Specialist, Ministry of Water and Environment, Lira, Uganda
Watch the Forum here: