Speakers stressed the need for reducing the gap allocation of resources in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in rural and urban areas
Insufficient allocation and lack of focus for the hygiene sub-sector remains a key priority to fight Covid-19 and continue progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will otherwise be hindered.
The induced gap needs to be reduced and an equitable allocation needs to be solicited to achieve SDG 6 — clean water and sanitation for all, said experts on Sunday.
Speaker made the remarks during a joint press conference held by WaterAid, UNICEF, PPRC, FANSA-BD, FSM Network, Sanitation and Water for All, WASH Alliance, and MHM Platform.
They stressed the need for reducing the gap allocation of resources in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in rural and urban areas.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairman of the Power and Participatory Research Centre (PPRC), said: “Geographical inequality of WASH allocations remains significant, where cities and towns have received the highest percentage of the allocated funding compared to rural, char, hilly, and coastal areas in previous years.”
Spatial inequities between urban and rural areas, the four WASAs, and 11 city corporations remain constant as cities and towns continue to receive most of the funding at the expense of rural, char and hard-to-reach areas, despite acute needs, the speakers added.
According to a stakeholder analysis, the gap of deliveries between urban and rural areas widening over the years, reveals that in a five-year period, there happens to be almost no change in shares of urban allocation at 80-83% and rural allocation at 17-20%.
During the conference, speakers urged to address hygiene as a pandemic priority — both to combat Covid-19 and cover health-hygiene linkages.
WASH allocations in the FY22 budget should introduce hygiene as a separate sub-sectoral line-item, they suggested.
Speakers also stated that good policies are not being followed through good implementation, leading to a “poor outcome syndrome.”
Capacity gaps of implementing agencies should be identified as a priority and allocations made to address such capacity gaps, they added.
Hasin Jahan, country director of WaterAid, said: “The government has proposed to repeal VAT on sanitary napkins, which is praiseworthy. There needs to be a monitoring mechanism to materialize this change in price so that women and girls can be benefitted.”
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Additionally, the initiative taken on water-related environmental and risk reduction projects are commendable, but needs to be scaled up in disaster-prone areas, particularly in the coastal strip of the country, she said.
According to WASH Alliance, allocation for water, sanitation and hygiene in the proposed national budget for FY22 shows a slight decline to Tk11,955 crore in FY22 from Tk12,227 crore in the last fiscal year.
Despite the Covid-19 infection rate exhibiting an upward trend in districts indicating the urgent need to scale up hygiene and WASH facilities — to combat further spread of the coronavirus — the allocation for the hygiene sub-sector has been overlooked in the 2021-22 fiscal year, the speakers noted.
The proposed allocation remains skewed toward urban areas, and that too mainly on the major cities with WASA, and substantially ignored the rural and hard to reach areas, the experts further said.