Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A U.N.-backed fund launched Tuesday aims to address the need for basic hand-washing and hygiene facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, a U.N.-hosted organization to improve global sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health, launched the fund in a Twitter video message.
Launch event moderator and international broadcaster Zeinab Badawi, who introduced U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed during the video said that The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund is a "fundamental, social and human right."
The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund is especially needed "as we are in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic," Badawi added.
More than 4 billion people around the world lack access to basic sanitation and hygiene facilities and menstrual health services, including over 3 billion who lack access to hand-washing facilities with water and soap at home to control the coronavirus, according to the United Nations.
The WSSCC has launched the fund as part of its sustainable development goals as "many of the world's most serious diseases stem from poor sanitation and hygiene," a U.N. statement said.
Mohammed said in the video message sustainability development goals, such as water and sanitation, were already falling short before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem.
Water and sanitation services are "critical to the response that we want to see, first, because it is about human dignity; second it is a health issue," Mohammed said in regard to pandemic recovery.
The U.N. Office for Project Services hosts the fund, which is designed as a global financing mechanism to provide accelerated funding to countries in the most need. Expanding access to sanitation and hygiene facilities in the household, school and healthcare facilities, and ensuring menstrual health services are among the key goals of the fund, which aims to raise $2 billion over the next five years to support its efforts.
U.N. Children's Fund Executive Director Henrietta Fore called sanitation and hygiene "a great equalizer for children," in a U.N. statement.
"During a lockdown, how do you cope with the fact that your household does not have a toilet? This is particularly difficult for girls and women. If everyone had access to sanitation and hygiene in households, in their school, in their health facilities and communities, it would make an enormous difference in our world," Fore said.
"Good sanitation has to be a public good," Fore added. "Governments have to own the fact that sanitation is their problem to solve, and that they have ways to solve it."