Safe water and adequate sanitation are basic human needs. It is a regrettable fact that for so many on our planet these needs remain unmet, particularly in developing and conflict-affected states. Indeed, as UNICEF reports, three billion people do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home, in addition to almost half of all schools lacking such facilities, affecting some 818 million school-age children.
I am proud of the UK's action on promoting safe water, sanitation and hygiene or UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. The UK Government pledged to provide 60 million people with improved water and sanitation between 2015 and 2020. Ministers confirmed that the UK met and exceeded this target in August 2020, helping 62.6 million people access clean water and sanitation, of which 26.2 million were based in fragile states.
To deliver on these ambitious targets, HM Government developed substantial bilateral water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and entered into a £57.3 million partnership with UNICEF to provide sustainable WASH services to 3.8 million people in ten countries, through the Sanitation, Water and Hygiene for the Rural Poor programme (2017-2022).
In the first phase of the pandemic response, the UK Government provided £20 million directly to UNICEF for urgent COVID-19 support including for water, sanitation and hygiene. In 2020 the UK also partnered with Unilever to establish the Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition, with a joint investment of up to £100 million. This partnership has provided 2.6 million WASH products and services to over 10,000 health care facilities to strengthen their hygiene and infection prevention and control practices. The programme also promoted hygiene messaging which reached 1 billion people in 37 countries between April 2020 and April 2021.
I understand that around the world, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by inadequate WASH access. One of the most direct impacts is the burden of collecting water, which women and girls spend 200 million hours doing each day globally. These journeys can also place them at increased risk of gender-based violence, as does a lack of private and secure sanitation.
It is for this reason that I welcome that making women and girls central to its approach to international development is a government priority. Indeed, gender issues have been incorporated into the design of the UK's WASH programmes. In addition, the FCDO's Ending Preventable Deaths Action Paper sets out how it will address the barriers to protecting the lives of mothers, babies and children – in which improving WASH worldwide plays a central role.
In 2022, the UK is continuing to promote the importance of WASH. This includes supporting the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, where this year's sector Ministers meeting will explore the theme of 'Building Forward Better for Recovery and Resilience' from Covid-19. The UK will also continue to fund the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, which tracks progress against water and sanitation global targets and support the Global Water Partnership to promote climate resilient WASH.
This complements HM Government's support for WASH services in healthcare facilities, for instance, through the "WASH In Healthcare Facilities" international taskforce; our hand hygiene partnership with Unilever; and our core multilateral funding, including via the World Bank and the World Health Organisation.