Five Notes on the Inextricable Link Between WASH and COVID-19

Five Notes on the Inextricable Link Between WASH and COVID-19 by Pallavi Bharadwai. Engineering for Change, July 16, 2020.

One of the newer sad facts about poverty is that it makes the coronavirus harder to contain. Three billion people do not have access to handwashing facilities at home, making it difficult to perform on the basic preventive measures to protect against infection.

Global aid organizations are aware of the fact. This week, I had the fortune to attend the launch of the United Nations SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 6 Global Acceleration Framework. The event aimed to mobilize UN agencies, governments, civil society, private and all other stakeholders to drive progress on SDG6, Safe Water and Sanitation for All.

In more normal times, this event may have carried less weight. However, the urgency shared by all the panelists makes one realize the inextricable link between the pandemic and need for safe, potable water and sanitation for all. Thinking about discussions held at the conference and their place in these times, I’ve noted five takeaways on the links between WASH and COVID-19.

IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU LIVE IN A RURAL OR AN URBAN SETTING

COVID-19 has proved to be an unfortunate reality check for the already vulnerable communities that were facing a lack of water and sanitation services globally. More than half of the world’s 8 billion people lack access to safe sanitation. We are recommended to wash our hands several times a day, however 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities.

I contributed to a recent study on water, climate and the migration crisis as a reviewer. The study attempts to explain how to assess water-migration interlinkages as water and climate crises are disproportionately impacting vulnerable individuals and groups. These may include water pollution, inability to meet daily water needs, climate extremes and limited options to income generation, especially for those who largely depend on land and water resources for survival. We witnessed this first-hand in the migration labor crisis in India.

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