CLEAN WATER, HYGIENE AND SANITATION, A FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE AGAINST COVID-19

The United Nations has said that despite the ongoing efforts to find a vaccine of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still possible that it will last a long time. For this reason, people should think about how to live with it and continue to prevent its spread.  Clean Water, hygiene and sanitation are the most factors on the front line in helping the people of the world to avoid this pandemic.

Some experts in public health believe those thorough washing hands with clean water and soap and other hygienic products, including wearing masks, use of hand sanitizer should be given high importance in the fight against COVID-19.

Public health is impossible without access to clean water, soap and hygiene services for frontline health workers, their patients and communities. Projects like providing clean water at affordable prices to the people in remote and hard to reach areas, making available supplies such as soap, teaching people how to wash their hands properly can help not only to withstand this crisis, but to build resilience against the threat of future health crises.

During this time when the whole world is under pressure from COVID-19, it is important that clean water, hygiene and sanitation are given special attention and governments should be responsible that all the people have access.

Water Aid, international not for-profit, determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone everywhere within the generation.  Statement on May 12, 2020 expresses a serious concern that  “in 51 statements issued by the United Nations Department of Health, calling on governments and donors to support the fight against COVID-19 activities, Water sanitation and Hygiene seem to be neglected yet they are  key to coping with this pandemic.”

In African and Asian countries, access to clean water for the poorest families is still a challenge despite the government’s political will to address it. Rwanda has promoted the culture of cleanliness and hygiene, but some gaps and challenges must be addressed. Maurice Kwizera, Country Director of Water Aid in Rwanda, said that although the Government and its partners have done a lot, there are still different parts of the country that have  access to clean water. During this time of increased risk caused by COVID-19, more efforts will be needed to avail clean and enough water for hand washing in all public places and homes. To leave no one behind, a new focus is needed to serve challenging settlements like slums and institutions with specific attention to health care facilities and schools”

Water Aid finds that the rest of the world should attach great importance to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, particularly by allocating enough budgets not only for new infrastructures but also for operations and maintenance.

Water Aid urges the United Nations to provide more attention to water, hygiene and sanitation by calling on governments, development partners, civil society organizations, the private sector and other partners to shoulder the burden of water, hygiene and sanitation initiatives as a vital elements in the fight against COVID-19 and suggest 7 following actions:

  1. Urgently invest in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, infrastructure, supplies and training for all frontline health workers, including cleaners and auxiliary staff, in accordance with the previously agreed WHA72.7 resolution on WASH in health care facilities.
  2. Initiate nationwide mass public health information campaigns that include good hygiene practices tailored to meet the needs of all as a critical part of containing the spread of COVID-19.
  3. Ensure indicators of access to WASH in health care facilities, communities, and the most “at risk groups” are embedded in national government monitoring of COVID-19 response.
  4. Ensure ministries responsible for water and sanitation are centrally involved in cross government COVID-19 response structures and coordination mechanisms, and share data on WASH access for the most ‘at risk’ communities and where WASH is missing or insufficient in health care facilities.
  5. Ensure that investment in sustainable WASH services is included as a priority within the text of the proposed WHA73 resolution on COVID-19.
  6. Embed WASH data and monitoring in national standards and processes for quality of care and pandemic preparedness, inclusive of joint sector reviews and biennial reporting to the WHA on WASH in health care facilities.
  7. Development partners and multilateral organizations should urgently increase financial support for hygiene services for communities and front line health workers. Official Development Assistance for WASH must be doubled in the short term to strengthen pandemic preparedness and response, and to strengthen the enabling systems which deliver sustainable services for all, prioritizing those most at risk.

BY Valentin UMUHIRE 

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