Prioritise hygiene, access to water and toilets as a first line of defence against Covid-19

Article: 17.11.20, Amsterdam

Still today 4.2 billion people worldwide live without access to safely managed sanitation.

Toilets play a crucial role in creating a strong economy, as well as in improving health and protecting people’s safety and dignity. This is in particular the case for women and girls.

Sanitation is a global development priority. The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to toilets by 2030.

World Toilet Day, each year in November, raises awareness of the importance of safe sanitation for all.

How do toilets protect our health?

4.2 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation. Instead, they often use unreliable, inadequate toilets or practice open defecation. Untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. Women and girls face health and safety risks when there are no adequate toilets. Sustainable sanitation systems, combined with the facilities and knowledge to practice good hygiene, are a strong defence against Covid-19 and future disease outbreaks.

What does Simavi do?

Simavi has been working towards a healthy life for all since 1925, focusing on an integrated approach of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

New programme: WASH First

Until there is a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19, there is no better cure than prevention. Access to clean water, safe and hygienic sanitation facilities plus 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.

Besides the fact that there are certain groups more at risk of facing severe consequences from contacting the virus, such as the elderly and those already (chronically) ill, there are other concerns. People that are often left behind or marginalised, such as women and girls, persons living with a disability, those living in informal settlements or those in extreme poverty, are also the ones with less access to proper facilities. They are more likely to share a toilet for instance, or to not have access to running water for proper handwashing.

That is why the WASH SDG Consortium, led by Simavi, consisting of the WASH Alliance International, Plan and SNV, and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has started the WASH First programme. Together with our partners in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda, we will promote health-related hygiene practices to prevent further spread of COVID-19 to those that are often left behind. The programme uses awareness raising and improved access to WASH services to ensure everyone has a fighting chance against the virus.

Children washing their hands at a hand-washing station in Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya

Dutch awareness raising

To engage the public in the Netherlands with our work, we launched a campaign called GIRLS POOP TOO on World Toilet Day 2020. The campaign articulates the necessity of women and girls to have a place for safe sanitation, as well as the need to end stigmas around female toilet issues. Simavi informs the Dutch audience about the fact that access to a toilet is a human right and opens the discussion about taboos all around the world, that are still preventing women to claim their space and feel confident and empowered.

Our work wouldn’t be possible without support. We need each other to interact, focus and work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. If you believe in improved access to water and sanitation, hygiene and believe in the power of women and girls, please support us by becoming a partner or subscribing to our newsletter.

More information on the WASH First programme you can find on the Simavi website. Do you want to talk with an expert on our projects? Contact Klaartje Vest.

Help and contribute to solutions for the water crisis.

What you can do