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.)

Download The Devdiscourse News App for Latest News.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Education post-coronavirus: Schools to rush for more digitalization

Digital education would undoubtedly boom in the post-coronavirus world, supported by educational institutions that have discovered its efficiency during the crisis, but it is still not expected to outshine traditional classroom learning....

Public health care post-COVID 19 to go for revamping, not rebooting

Until now, the economies used to classify healthcare sector under social expenditure. However, the devastation caused by COVID 19 pandemic has upgraded public healthcare on topmost priority and core economic activity for controlling future ...

Coronavirus lockdowns to speed up long-pending revamping of supply chains

With millions of production lines impacted, business disruptions to some extent are unavoidable and the lessons learned from this turbulence will leave an everlasting impact on both global and local levels of supply chains....

Videos

Latest News

Lockdown broken in El Salvador as crowds gather for government aid

By Anastasia Moloney BOGOTA, March 30 Thomson Reuters Foundation - Police in El Salvador on Monday used pepper spray to disperse crowds of people seeking government subsidies to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic, drawing criticism ...

U.S., Russia agree to oil market talks as Trump calls price war 'crazy'

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed during a phone call on Monday to have their top energy officials discuss slumping global oil markets, the Kremlin said, as Trump called Russias price war with Saudi Ara...

World Bank urges G20 to refrain from export restrictions for pandemic supplies

The World Bank on Monday urged the Group of 20 major economies G20 to refrain from imposing new export restrictions on critical medical supplies, food or other key products as the world battles the devastating coronavirus pandemic.In a stat...

Brazil's Bolsonaro says no more quarantine measures can be imposed

Brazils President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday that no more coronavirus-fighting quarantine measures can be imposed than those already in place because jobs are being destroyed and the poor are suffering.Speaking to Rede TV, Bolsonaro repe...

Give Feedback