Access to water and sanitation is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and is a fundamental right for an acceptable quality of life
According to the World Health Organisation, 844 million people in the world lack access to safe water and 2.3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities. To date, countries around the world are making efforts to close these gaps in urban and rural areas, but efforts are insufficient.
In 2017 worldwide, 488 million people in rural areas were drinking water contaminated by faeces, 1.1 billion people used a sanitation system that did not adequately protect their families, and 1.8 billion people lacked hand-washing facilities with soap and water, vital for practising safe hand hygiene which today, in the context of a global pandemic due to COVID-19, is the first line of defence against infectious diseases and can be life-saving. In Latin America, 28 million people lacked access to an improved water source, 83 million people did not have access to improved sanitation facilities, and 15.6 million still practised open defecation.
This was the backdrop to the creation of SIRWASH (Sustainable and Innovative Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in Rural Areas). The initiative is in line with the 2030 Agenda, and it joins the global efforts and commitments to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Water and Sanitation), focusing on closing the gaps that persist in rural water, sanitation and hygiene services, promoting an enabling environment for the formulation of public policies, technological innovations and cooperation, exchange of knowledge and experiences, and capacity-building to ensure adequate provision of sustainable and quality water, sanitation and hygiene services in rural communities with poor and vulnerable populations.
SIRWASH is promoted by SDC’s Global Water Programme to ensure the sustainable and quality provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services in rural communities. Switzerland has over 20 years’ experience in the management of water, sanitation and hygiene services in rural areas, through its successful SABA Model in Peru and ASIR SABA in Colombia, to strengthen the management of rural water and sanitation services, and the initiative will draw on this.
It will also draw on the experience of the strategic partners with whom it will implement the initiative: the Inter-American Development Bank’s experience in rural projects and initiatives; the private sector’s experience with Sistema B; and Young Water Solutions’ experience in business ventures with young people in water, sanitation and hygiene, to consolidate and strengthen safe, sustainable and quality access to rural water, sanitation and hygiene services.
SIRWASH has a budget of CHF 15,000,000 for 2020-2030, and will be implemented in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Haiti, one country in Africa and one in Asia.