Eleven months have passed since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As we rang in the new year, the world surpassed two million deaths due to COVID-19. While it is encouraging that 77 countries have distributed 168 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, only a small fraction of these are in low-income countries. Vaccinations may not be widely distributed in most of sub-Saharan Africa until 2022-2023. Furthermore, the new COVID-19 variant recently discovered in South Africa is estimated to be 50 percent more contagious, underscoring the need for a collaborative international response.

As new variants of COVID-19 emerge and outpace vaccination delivery, WHO continues to stress the basic precautions of mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, the last of which requires regular delivery of basic water services. Yet, there are few indications that funding for such water services is being prioritized or integrated into health sector programming and budgeting by governments or donors.

Recent data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests that while many countries will slowly recover from the economic collapse of 2020, many local and national governments will continue to face hard choices in the allocation of shrinking public revenue, especially in the poorest countries. Government transfers and donor funding are critical for many service providers—for much needed expansions in infrastructure and for covering operating costs. But in the last eleven months, a contraction in commercial water use and tariff collection reduced revenues, and changes in operating protocols and protection for workers raised costs. Understanding the extent of the financial shortfalls and bridging the gaps expediently are critical if we are to expect service providers to continue operating, and expand and improve services to meet growing needs in the coming years.

Read the full article about water and sanitation funding during COVID-19 by Alayna Sublette and Tanvi Nagpal  at New Security Beat.