Category Archives: Sanitation and Health

WASH & COVID-19 – Water Currents, March 2020

This special issue contains links to key websites as well as studies and reports that discuss the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)–related aspects of COVID-19. With the release of additional funding, to date USAID has committed up to $100 million in financing from the Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious-Disease Outbreaks for 25 countries affected by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) or at high risk of its spread.

The COVID-19 virus is transmitted through two main routes: respiratory and contact. No evidence to date suggests that the virus is present in surface or groundwater sources or transmitted through contaminated drinking water. And no evidence to date suggests that the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, either with or without treatment.

The provision of safe WASH conditions is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are some WASH–related infectious disease prevention and control measures. 

  • Ensuring good and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and health care facilities will further help to prevent human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Frequent and proper handwashing with soap is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus. WASH activities aiming to respond to COVID-19 should work to enable handwashing by improving services and facilities and using proven behavior change techniques. 
  • Reliable water services in health facilities and households are critical to ensuring both sufficient quantities of safe drinking water and the ability to maintain hygiene (including hand hygiene, laundering, cleaning, and disinfection). 

Read the complete issue.

Information resources on WASH and the Coronavirus

Please leave a comment or email us if you have additional studies, guidelines, etc. to add to this webliography.

Reports/Articles

Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19 technical brief. WHO; UNICEF, March 3, 2020. This Technical Brief supplements existing IPC documents by referring to and summarizing WHO guidance on water, sanitation and health care waste which is relevant for viruses (including coronaviruses).

To fight the coronavirus, wash your hands and support clean water access around the world. by Susan Barnett, USA Today, March 4, 2020. We can’t build a wall around a germ. But we can wash our hands, and our government can help countries trying to improve their health facilities.

Sphere: WASH & the Coronavirus – The document outlines the underlying principles and the importance of community engagement, as well as a detailed review of the relevant technical guidance in the WASH and Health chapters.

Key Considerations: Quarantine in the Context of COVID-19 | Social Science in Humanitarian Action

Blog Posts

COVID-19–why the gaps in available data are far more terrifying. IRCWASH Blog, March 2020. An excerpt – The WASH community must support health authorities in tackling the outbreak by; Amplifying the emphasis on hygiene and handwashing by any means; Make available its expertise, from technical solutions to campaigning and improving water security; Prioritise its work with healthcare facilities to prevent them becoming sources of viral transmission.

Websites

WHO – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak – Situation reports, technical guidance, media resources, online training, videos.

CDC – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – What you should know, situation updates, information for healthcare professionals, communities, schools and businesses.

Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP) – GHP SoapBox Newsletter – Handwashing as a Preventative Measure: Updates on the Coronavirus Outbreak, February 2020. In this SoapBox edition, we provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak, including its impacts, measures you can take to protect yourself, and what GHP partners are doing to respond.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases Dashboard | Johns Hopkins CSSE

Other Resources

In an effort to increase transparency and communication, major publishers have created Coronavirus information centers, where relevant and current research is freely available. This includes Springer Nature, Elsevier and Wiley. Several major journals have done the same, including: The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and The British Medical Journal.

Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19 technical brief – WHO; UNICEF

Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19 technical brief. WHO; UNICEF, March 3, 2020.

This Technical Brief supplements existing IPC documents by referring to and summarizing WHO guidance on water, sanitation and health care waste which is relevant for viruses (including coronaviruses).

This Technical Brief is written in particular for water and sanitation practitioners and providers.

To fight the coronavirus, wash your hands and support clean water access around the world

To fight the coronavirus, wash your hands and support clean water access around the world. by Susan Barnett, USA Today, March 4, 2020.

We can’t build a wall around a germ. But we can wash our hands, and our government can help countries trying to improve their health facilities.

Never has my odd obsession with the lack of access to safe water, toilets and soap around the world become more relevant to the headlines.

Because nowhere is the absence of WASH (water/sanitation/hygiene) more abominable than in hundreds of thousands of health care facilities where infections are supposed to go to die.

With all this hand-wringing about the new coronavirus, two things need to happen.

First, this virus has no cure, no vaccine, no treatment other than resting, hydrating, cough medicine and pain relief. You get sick, you feel crummy. You wait it out and try not to get anyone else sick. But the better option is to not get sick in the first place.

There are only two ways to be on the offensive: Avoid sick people, which makes a big presumption that they and you know they’re sick, and — the single most important thing you can do — wash your hands.

Read the complete article.

Sphere – WASH & the Coronavirus

How Sphere supports the response to the Coronavirus outbreak

Sphere collates emerging practice and evidence in the Coronavirus response and released a four-page document guiding you through the relevant parts of the Sphere Handbook.

The document outlines the underlying principles and the importance of community engagement, as well as a detailed review of the relevant technical guidance in the WASH and Health chapters.

Download the document

Sprinting the last mile in Nepal

In September 2019, the Government of Nepal declared the country ‘open defecation free’ (ODF). Leading up to this milestone, the Government of Nepal and other sector partners focused on  the challenging Terai plains – the ‘last mile’ of Nepal’s Sanitation Campaign.

Sprinting the Last Mile: Nepal’s Sanitation Campaign in the Terai documents the key success factors from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council’s Global Sanitation Fund programme in Nepal, executed by UN-HABITAT, concentrating on the Terai region. By building local campaign coordination bodies, leveraging local finance, and igniting broad-based movements for improving sanitation and hygiene, sanitation coverage in the Terai accelerated from around 13% to near universal coverage in just over four years, according to data from the Government of Nepal. These insights and lessons are relevant for other behaviour change-based sanitation and hygiene campaigns across Asia and beyond.

Also available in French!

Harnessing the power of WASH in the fight against NTDs by Yael Velleman

While in Uganda last week, I had the unique opportunity to sit down with the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s National Program Officer for Trachoma Control, Gilbert Baayenda.

Gilbert Baayenda

Trachoma is a devastating bacterial infection and the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. It is one of 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that cause extreme pain, disability and even death. Yet NTDs are preventable. They are diseases of poverty and marginalization that affect over one billion people across 149 countries globally.

Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is essential for the prevention, treatment and care of NTDs. Recognizing this, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the NTD NGO Network (NNN) developed, “WASH and health working together: A ‘how-to’ guide for Neglected Tropical Disease programmes,” the first step-by-step guide for building successful WASH and NTD partnerships.

Since its launch last year on what is now World NTD Day, the toolkit has been utilized in a number of countries across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, including Uganda. As the lead on collaboration with the WASH sector on behalf of Uganda’s National NTD Control Program, Gilbert has championed greater coordination between WASH and NTD partners, and is now in the process of adapting the innovative WHO and NNN toolkit to meet national and district-level needs.

What motivates you, as a healthcare professional, to be a WASH champion?

GB: I have lived and worked at the community and sub-national level for about 15 years and have seen what it means to have access to water and sanitation. I’ve worked in nomadic communities where WASH is non-existent – where there is no safe water, no latrine, no hygiene facilities, and water is scarce. Even where we believe that access is relatively good, we hear communities complain that there is only one water source and they must travel far to access it.

What motivates me is the decisions we make and their impact on the community. If even one family that currently has difficulties in access can say that the WASH problem has been resolved, then I would be relieved. If we solve half of the cases of disease within the next couple of years, I would be motivated to scale up to as many homes as we can get to.

What challenges have you faced in addressing WASH and NTDs?

GB: One challenge is that service providers, as well as communities, are not aware of the connection between WASH and NTDs. We must get the message out that without improvement in WASH, we may not be able to sustain the gains we have made in the fight against NTDs.

This is clear when you compare progress on trachoma and schistosomiasis; while we have eliminated trachoma in most endemic districts, we have seen progress on schistosomiasis reversed despite added treatment. The only way we can address this is if we improve WASH.  

In terms of achieving this improvement, we are challenged by natural disasters such as floods, poor soil conditions that make latrine construction difficult, and long distances to water sources. When we conduct health education, we try to emphasise the vital role of WASH.

Getting all the players to sit at the same table and view themselves as part of one WASH community instead of medical, engineering, NGO, social science or hydrology specialists, and initiating collaboration, has been a challenge. Another challenge is that Uganda has a decentralised government system, so whatever we do at the national level has to also reach all 126 districts if we want to make an impact.

Coordination of the collaboration itself is also a challenge as it is important to ensure that one sector does not appear to dominate the others – we’ve therefore tried our best to get everyone together and this is expected to improve as the concept of WASH and NTD collaboration gets more buy in.

How have you begun to overcome these challenges and improve cross-sectoral coordination?

GB: We decided to adopt the WASH and NTDs toolkit [“WASH and health working together”] and customise it to the Ugandan context. We have held meetings at the national level and we would like to hold specific WASH and NTDs meetings with district officials in which we can explain the toolkit and the expected results, to get them to appreciate that collaboration and partnership with WASH stakeholders and relevant ministries is vital. WASH is a very big challenge and we cannot do it alone.

What difference can collaboration make?

GB: Even if we come up with one innovation that can ensure coverage in fishing communities, which are right on the water, yet they have no access to safe water, that will be a huge success. If the communities that are very far from the water source can benefit from innovation to resolve this problem, I would be proud to have been a part of this effort.

For more information:

https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/wash-health-toolkit/en/
https://www.ntd-ngonetwork.org/
https://www.infontd.org/cross-cutting-issues/wash-and-ntds

About the author:
Yael Velleman is the Director of Policy & Communications at SCI Foundation, and co-chairs the NNN WASH Working Group