Equal to the task: financing water supply, sanitation and hygiene for a clean, green and healthy Pakistan

Pakistan faces major challenges ahead in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping progress on track to end poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Equal to the task is a new report by WaterAid and Development Initiatives, which focuses on the current state of financing of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. It highlights the need for renewed effort and purpose from the Government of Pakistan and the international community to mobilise the resources necessary to tackle the pandemic and deliver universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene within a clean and green Pakistan. The COVID-19 pandemic began to gather momentum in Pakistan in March 2020 with reported cases increasing to over 282,000 by the beginning of August and reported fatalities over 6000. The report emphasises the need to mobilise substantial increases in funds for WASH in support of the Government’s COVID-19 response and as part of accelerated action to achieve SDG 6. This step change in approach is necessary not just as a response to the pandemic, which requires rigorous and regular hand washing as a key preventative measure, but also to address the steep challenges facing the water sector more broadly. Rivers, lakes, wetlands, and the Indus Delta—are all in rapid decline due to excessive water withdrawals and widespread pollution. Severe groundwater depletion is also evident, particularly in Lahore, Quetta, and parts of southern Punjab.