Left Menu
Development News Edition

Fears over handwashing in Africa to stem coronavirus seen as trigger for change

Reuters | Cape Town | Updated: 21-03-2020 12:58 IST | Created: 21-03-2020 12:30 IST
Fears over handwashing in Africa to stem coronavirus seen as trigger for change
Image Credit: UNICEF

People globally are being told to wash their hands to fight the spread of coronavirus but in Africa, many can't, experts said, urging states to use the pandemic as a reason to finally push for improvements to water supplies.

Aid workers and advisors said countries should seize the moment ahead of World Water Day on Sunday to reinforce water security on a continent hit by frequent droughts and where many people do not have access to a sink. "In the water sector we always say 'Don't waste a good crisis'," said Inga Jacobs-Mata, the South African representative from non-profit research group the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

"Coronavirus has already highlighted that safe water and sanitation is essential to protecting human life during all infectious disease outbreaks," she said in a phone interview. Africa has been less severely hit by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, with an estimated 700 cases on the continent, compared to 41,035 in Italy alone, according to recent reports.

But densely populated slums, limited healthcare facilities, high rates of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) and water shortages caused by drought and poor infrastructure have left governments concerned about the expected spread. Over the past year, much of the central and western parts of southern Africa have experienced their lowest rainfall since 1981, according to the United Nations.

Still recovering from deadly cyclone Idai that hit about one year ago, Mozambicans wonder how they will fight the virus. "Severe drought in Mozambique, means women are walking all day to find water ... How can people follow health and hand-washing advice during droughts and water shortages?" asked Sara Almer, humanitarian director at international charity ActionAid.

In West and Central Africa, more than a third of all people still do not have access to clean water, according to UNICEF. "Now is the moment to reflect on what additional actions will be needed to reinforce water security everywhere," said Abdoulaye Sene, executive secretary of the World Water Forum and longtime advisor to the Senegalese government on hydraulics.

Water cuts in Senegal's capital Dakar are frequent, with government responding in the past by bringing in water in fire trucks. Hand sanitizer is already starting to sell out. In Kenya - where only 14% of people have hand-washing facilities at home, according to U.N. data - the government has called on water companies to not shutdown supply to citizens if payments are overdue and plans on supplying free sanitizers.

The South African government is looking into supplying water tankers, sourcing groundwater and drilling additional boreholes for vulnerable communities, said a spokesman for the Department of Water and Sanitation, Sputnik Ratau. "I think this is an opportunity," said Mariame Dem, West Africa regional director for WaterAid.

"It has shaken the decision-makers, it has shaken individuals, and I think the actors now can build from it for a more sustained approach and plan."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

China: A savior for emerging markets or a poison pill?

... ...

Future of Urban Planning: Artificial Intelligence guiding the way

Advances in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can help us understand our cities better and derive useful insights from real-time data collected through automated models....

Videos

Latest News

Covid shot: FIR after misleading pamphlets appear

A spate of pamphlets urging people of a particular community against taking anti-Covid vaccine shots and spreading rumours about their ingredients surfaced in the city here on Sunday, prompting police to lodge an FIR against unknown miscrea...

CBI arrests senior railway official, 2 others in bribery case

The CBI arrested the chief administrative officer construction of the Northeast Frontier Railways on Sunday for allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs one crore for granting favours in awarding lucrative contracts to a private company, officials...

'Identify bottlenecks, plan corrective actions': Health Ministry asks States, UTs on day 2 of vaccination drive

By Sahil Pandey The Union Health Ministry held a meeting with all States and UTs on Sunday for a review of progress on the second day of the nationwide vaccination drive and asked them to identify bottlenecks and plan corrective actions.In ...

Drug peddler held with over one kg of charas in J&K's Reasi

An alleged drug peddler was arrested on Sunday and over one kilogram of charas was seized from his possession in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.Zulifkar Ahmad 22, a resident of Jamaslan-Chachi village, was arrested along w...

Give Feedback