Insufficient allocation and lack of focus in the budget will hinder the hygiene sub-sector, which remains a key priority for Covid-19 and the SDG Goals, speakers at a post-budget press conference said yesterday.
They also stressed the need to reduce the gap in resource allocation for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in rural and urban areas.
The press conference was jointly organised by WaterAid Bangladesh, Unicef, Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC), FANSA-BD, FSM Network, Sanitation and Water for All, WASH Alliance, and MHM Platform.
The analysis presented at the session reflected the proposed national budget (2021-22 fiscal) allocation for WASH, which shows a slight decline in WASH budget allocation, from Tk 122.27 billion last year to Tk 119.55 billion for the current fiscal.
Following the legacy of previous years, the allocation for hygiene has been overlooked in the 2021-22 fiscal, regardless of the predominance of the pandemic, the speakers claimed.
The proposed allocation remains skewed toward urban areas, and that too mainly on major cities with Wasa services, and substantially ignores the rural and hard-to-reach areas, they said.
Currently, the Covid-19 infection rate is showing a notable upward trend in districts outside the capital, indicating the need to scale up hygiene and WASH facilities to contain further spread of the virus transmission, they said.
PPRC chairman Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said, “Geographical inequality of WASH allocation remains significant. Cities and towns have received the highest percentage of the allocated funds compared to rural, char, hilly, and coastal areas.”
Hasin Jahan, Country Director of WaterAid Bangladesh said, “The government has proposed to repeal the Vat on sanitary napkins, which is praiseworthy. But there needs to be a monitoring mechanism to materialise this change in price so that women and girls can be benefited.”
The speakers also recommended addressing hygiene as a pandemic priority — both to combat Covid-19 and cover health-hygiene linkages.
According to the speakers, the initiative taken on water-related environmental and risk reduction projects are commendable but it needs to be scaled up in disaster-prone areas, particularly in the coastal strip of the country.
They also suggested that capacity gaps of implementing agencies should be identified as a priority and allocations should be made to address such gaps.