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Statement by SWA Steering Committee Chair on COVID-19 response

Patrick Moriarty, SWA Steering Committee Chair
07 Apr 2020

Dear friends and colleagues, partners in Sanitation and Water for All,

We are living through extraordinary times. Experiencing a fast-evolving health emergency that leaves none of us untouched – professionally or personally. These are very difficult times for many. Yet, if we can use them to catalyse awareness of the water, sanitation and hygiene emergency that existed before (and risks continuing after) the COVID-19 crisis - they may also offer a hint of promise for the future.

Let me start by commending the SWA secretariat team for the way they’ve responded to the global crisis. By acting as a catalyst to accurate and evidence-based information. By using SWA’s convening power to bring together key political leaders and decision makers in a series of important webinars. And, above all, by driving the link between strong water, sanitation and hygiene systems and countries’ ability to tackle health and economic security. I think we can be very proud of how they have performed.

I also want to express gratitude to all of you, SWA partners who, while tackling the crisis in your primary roles, have taken the time to contribute to this work. You have shared your resources, evidence, insights and voice. COVID-19 knows no borders. Fighting it requires global solidarity, action and collaboration. All core values of SWA, all being evidenced by your actions.

I am convinced that at the heart of our message to the world must be the promotion of a simple truth – that water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial building blocks in strong public health systems. That strong and effective water and sanitation systems, and appropriate hygiene behaviours, are our first line in the fight against infectious diseases. Doubly so where there is no vaccine or treatment. And, therefore, that a health response is a WASH response.

Yet for too many countries in the world, the WASH response can, at best, be only partially effective. Due to decades of under-investment, mismanagement and lack of political priority. We have known this for many years but have sometimes struggled to communicate it.

I believe we have a once in a generation chance to make this point to the world, almost exactly a decade ahead of needing to achieve SDG6. It is an opportunity we must not miss: to act decisively and collectively to promote the value of water, sanitation and hygiene to the health and security of the world.

SWA, as a global partnership, will continue to champion this perspective. Now more than ever. We must dare to think, act and speak audaciously. As we redouble our efforts to support national and local governments and the key workers on the frontline of this emergency, we must also find new ways to get our message ‘beyond the sector’ - to global and national decision-makers and opinion formers.

If not now, when?