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UN official calls for measures to achieve universal access to water and sanitation

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed on Thursday called for measures to achieve universal access to water and sanitation.

Galvanizing support to address the water crisis is essential to the implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, from health to food security and gender equality, she told a high-level meeting to promote the implementation of the water-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda.

The world is not on track to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6 — clean water and sanitation — by 2030. To achieve universal access to water and sanitation, the current rate of progress would need to quadruple, she said.

Moreover, the planetary crisis, including the inter-linked threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, will increase water scarcity.

By 2040, one in four of the world’s children under 18 — some 600 million — will be living in areas of extremely high water stress, she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly reminded us that water and sanitation are among the keys to fighting infectious diseases. Yet 3 billion people, especially in rural areas and least developed countries, lack basic handwashing facilities at home.”

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Mohammed highlighted three imperatives. She asked countries to use pandemic recovery plans to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals and to address the unequal access to water and sanitation. She called on governments to raise ambition on climate action as more than 90 percent of natural disasters are water-related. She asked to put more women decision-makers at the table.

Women and girls suffer disproportionately when water and sanitation are lacking, affecting health and often restricting work and education opportunities. But women are also the backbone of agriculture and key stewards of natural resources.

The COVID-19 response has highlighted the power of women’s leadership, she said. “Let’s draw on this experience as policies are put in place to build a green economy.”

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