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It’s been a long time since those of us in the West have been so acutely aware of our need for clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials are constantly reminding us to wash our hands – and to do it right, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing between our fingers and under our nails. That’s the best way to remove viral particles from our hands to keep them from transmitting the virus to ourselves and others, they say. But for 2.2 billion people in resource-strapped contexts – whether refugee camps, urban slums or remote rural areas – access to clean water is still an issue, making the prospect of hand-washing several times a day much harder.
Some countries and organizations have stepped up with innovative immediate solutions. In West Africa, for example, some countries have reinstituted the public handwashing stations they used during the Ebola outbreak, consisting of two buckets – one with a spigot and filled with chlorine and water; the other one placed underneath the spigot to catch wastewater. More than a dozen countries have also submitted requests for a device that PATH developed that makes chlorine out of just water, salt and a car battery.
Immediate access is what matters most in the current crisis, but access to WASH services is of utmost importance even when we’re not facing a global pandemic. It improves every aspect of a community’s well-being – their health, income, education, safety, women’s empowerment – and can prevent future disease outbreaks. But just installing WASH facilities is not enough, otherwise we’d probably be close to achieving “clean water and sanitation for all” (Sustainable Development Goal 6) already. Instead, what researchers, sector leaders and organizations are recognizing is that robust data tracking and transparency is critical for ensuring that WASH projects are successful, sustainable and inclusive.
Read the full article about WASH solutions by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.