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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Women and Girls

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2023

11. What recent steps his Department has taken to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls across the world. (903374)

I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. A third of women around the world do not have access to clean water. In December, I visited Ghana and saw how water, sanitation and hygiene projects funded by UK aid can be life-changing for women and girls. The Government’s international development strategy commits to “empowering women and girls” around the world, but it does not go far enough. Can the Minister assure me that his Department will prioritise funding for WASH projects for women and girls?

I thank the hon. Lady, my constituency neighbour, for flagging up an extremely important area of development policy. Over the last three years, Britain has trained 460,000 health and other key workers in the science of hygiene, and has supported 14,800 healthcare facilities. As she will have seen from her visit to Ghana, that is highly prioritised by the British Government.

Research by Open Doors for its world watch list indicates that there is a worrying tendency for Christian communities to be deprived of access to vital aid programmes. Will the Minister ensure that all UK-funded aid programmes are open to Christians, where needed, and other ethnic minorities?

We have now passed the halfway mark to the 2030 deadline for meeting the sustainable development goals that we and 192 UN countries signed up to. On our current trajectory, however, we are set to miss every single one. Does the Minister agree that WASH is a cornerstone of the global goals and, to meet his targets on girls’ education and ending preventable deaths, schools and hospitals need clean water and sanitation? Will he restore the official development assistance for WASH, which has dropped by two thirds, as part of the women and girls strategy?

The hon. Lady makes an extremely important point. Since the programmes were renewed in 2015, 63 million people in the poorest countries now have access to clean water and a lavatory, thanks to the UK taxpayer. Specifically, support for the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, which promotes access to sustainable water resources, is a high priority for the Government.