ESG blog: Valuing water – delivering access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Northern India

ESG Blog valuing water – delivering access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Northern India

Looking at the S in ESG, Suzanne Scatliffe, global sustainability director at Axa XL, explains how the insurer is working with Water Aid to improve the quality of people’s lives by providing clean water, decent toilets and improved hygiene.

Suzanne Scatliffe
Suzanne Scatliffe

Making a difference to the global water crisis requires engagement with – and education of – a diverse group of people including colleagues and clients, about global water challenges. Axa XL’s Valuing Water initiative considers both the social and economic value of freshwater through evidence-based programming with guidance from specialists in the water sector; as well as through client and colleague engagement, knowledge-sharing and network building between stakeholders.

Alongside the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project, Axa XL has also held discussions with our clients on how they perceive and address water risks in their businesses, as well as funded academic research on how drought affects different livelihoods in Somalia.

Contributing to water security in Northern India

Axa XL’s three-year partnership with Water Aid, an international non-profit, is dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to more than 10,000 people in Northern India. The project we are funding in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, a water-scarce district, will help improve the quality of people’s lives by providing clean water, decent toilets and improved hygiene.

We are two years into the project and our support so far has allowed Water Aid to work with the government to bring piped water to 42 gram panchayats — village councils — in Fatehpur, reaching almost 6000 people. A key focus of the project is to improve sanitation and hygiene facilities and hygiene education in schools. The project has so far built three school sanitation blocks with new toilets and hand-washing facilities, as well as installing accessible toilets in a further five schools.

Regular hygiene education sessions in schools have reached over 2100 students, and similar sessions in community and healthcare centres have provided a further 2200 people with a better understanding of good hygiene behaviours. Menstrual hygiene management has also been taught in the community and menstrual hygiene management depots were established in 39 villages to provide affordable sanitary napkins to women in the community.

Community members were also trained on water quality testing and conservation, and community volunteers were taught about well restoration and cleaning. In addition, Water Aid trained local workers on rainwater harvesting in order to recharge dug wells that had a depleted groundwater supply. This work provides the community with the skills required to manage and maintain their own local supply of water, to ensure the sustainability of the services installed by Water Aid.

Although there have been many challenges as a result of the global pandemic, our partnership with Water Aid has still made a significant difference in 2020 and 2021. Water Aid has been able to adapt to the current context and continue to deliver the project activities. This has included Covid-19 hygiene promotion messages shared in the project intervention area and then scaled up with support from government institutions, to reach all 797 GPs in the Fatehpur district. Water Aid also set up ‘Soap Banks’ to provide soap to marginalised families.

IICF’s Forum on Social Purpose and Inclusion in Insurance

Axa XL has a long-term partnership with The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation UK. Suzanne Scatliff serves on the board of directors and presented on the company’s Valuing Water initiative at IICF’s Forum on Placing Purpose at the Heart of ESG in November 2021. IICF is planning a Forum on Social Purpose and Inclusion in Insurance this spring continue discussions on these important topics.

 

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