The economy of the developing countries would be boosted by millions of dollars invested in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) over the next two decades if clean water, toilets and hygiene can be ensured for everyone, according to a WaterAid report.
The report titled "Mission Critical: Invest in water, sanitation and hygiene for a healthy and green economic recovery" shows that investment in water and sanitation infrastructure meets the criteria for a strong "green" economic stimulus investment.
It was published after the UK Government slashed bilateral funding for overseas water, sanitation and hygiene projects by more than 80%.
Investment in WASH by governments, businesses and international donors, which is essential for public health response to Covid-19, is a mission-critical fiscal stimulus for economic recovery and a core element of future pandemic preparedness plans, reads the report.
The global report highlighted case studies of WASH investments in Ethiopia and Bangladesh show significant health and time-saving benefits, especially for women and girls and marginalised groups.
It stressed that in 2020, Bangladesh experienced flood damages costing around $476 million in repairs and reduced WASH benefits which could have been potentially saved by spending about $90 million in building resilience.
Saline intrusion from coastal flooding threatens long-term supply of safe water; affecting 20 million people each year and leading to negative health outcomes, says the report.
The report also mentioned that collecting water from wells is a common reality for women in rural Bangladesh. Providing basic water services could save the equivalent of 77 million days per year spent in collecting water by the women of the world – enabling them to explore work and life options.
For far too long women's unpaid labour has subsidised insufficient WASH investments. Covid-19 has seen a further backsliding in economic empowerment of women. Sufficient and targeted investment in WASH, among other things, is needed to help reverse the backslide while helping us to accelerate towards gender equality as well.
Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid, said: "There can be no going back to the pre-pandemic business-as-usual. WaterAid is calling on governments, donors and businesses to do the right thing and prioritise the most vulnerable communities by making water, sanitation and hygiene investments central to their COVID-19 response, pandemic-preparedness and green recovery plans."
Hasin Jahan, Country Director of WaterAid Bangladesh said, "Investing in WASH can unlock economic opportunities and health savings at relatively low cost. The investment can also address key objectives of stimulus spending post-COVID and can build resilience to increasing climate risks."