A pre-budget press conference organized on WASH allocation in Bangladesh

At a joint press conference held by WaterAid, UNICEF, PPRC, FANSA-BD, WSSCC,B, FSM Network, Sanitation and Water for All, and WASH Alliance, speakers requested the government to allocate a notable amount of funds in National Budget 2020-2021 in WASH sector to tackle COVID-19 and maintain progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will differently be hindered. The online press conference was organized virtually.

An analysis by the Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC), in collaboration with WaterAid and UNICEF, found that the Bangladesh government’s initiative in financing the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector is commendable. This is because the allocation of funds in the national budget in the wash sector from 2006-2007 to 2019-2020 has gradually increased. At this time it has increased from Tk 2,563 crore to Tk 10,687 crore. In the budget of the financial year, the trend of financial allocation in this sector has gone up, which has increased by 11.6 percent. In the fiscal year 2019-2020, the highest allocation was given for sanitation, in contrast, the allocation for hygiene was insufficient. However, equal attention needs to be paid to both sectors in tackling the deadly pandemic COVID-19.

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The press conference jointly put forward the following recommendations for the National Budget 2020-2021:

  1. Prioritise hygiene as a vital tool of public health and epidemic preparedness, and invest in large-scale nationwide hygiene campaign and installation of public handwashing points with soap and water.
  2. Increase immediate investment in WASH, including hygiene and WASH in health care facilities, as a priority of COVID-19 prevention and response as well as to build resilience against future disease outbreaks, with a particular focus on hard-to-reach areas and other marginalised groups.
  3. Track actual expenditure of WASH allocation systematically to improve targeting and decision-making around WASH investment to cater actual needs of citizens;
  4. Commit to financing the priorities set out in key planning documents, such as the Five Year Plan a
  5. nd Sector Development Plan, towards universal sustainable WASH services, prioritising the poorest and most marginalisedAddress the extreme disparities in access and affordability to clean water between highly subsidised urban customers and marginalised populations in the coast, slums, and other hard-to-reach areas through exploring solutions such as progressive tariffs.
  6. Invest in increasing technical capacity of implementing institutions to enable proper execution of national level policies and projects, particularly in lagging areas such as hygiene and faecal sludge management which are critical to public health

The analysis also confers geographical variation of WASH allocation persists significant, where cities and towns have experienced the highest percentage of the designated funding than compared to rural, char, hilly, and coastal regions in previous years. These under-developed areas’ requirements are higher than in urban regions and the upcoming budget must consider the acute needs of the marginalized pockets.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Eminent Economist, Chairman, Power, and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) has also stated that the 2020-2021 budget must prioritize hygiene as a critical area in the light of COVID-19 threat and the complexities of SDG 6 attainment. It is time to shift gears and accelerate the WASH financing for pro-poor and marginalized communities to keep up with SDGs commitment.

Ms. Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid stated “investment in nationwide hygiene promotion and behavior change campaigns must get a priority in the National Budget 2020-2021 to prevent and control COVID-19.”

Other speakers at the press conference said there should be no difference between urban and rural areas in allocating funds in the budget. Because, we can see that in the current situation, everyone in the country is at risk of COVID-19. More allocation is required in the budget for the establishment of handwashing systems in public places, which is important for hygiene and corona prevention.

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