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Covid outbreak: 3 in 10 people lack access to soap, water

1.2 million children die a year due to lack of clean water

Ground Report | New Delhi: Covid outbreak: 3 in 10 people; Billions of people worldwide are at risk of not having access to life-saving clean drinking water and sanitation services by 2030, according to a new United Nations report released on Thursday. The report defines sanitation as the collection of all steps implemented to protect, improve and regain human health.

The report titled “Progress in Drinking Water, Sanitation and Household Hygiene, 2000-2020”, is a work of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene. It presents estimates on household access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services over the past 5 years and assesses progress towards achieving the sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The 6th SDG refers to “ensuring access for all to sustainably managed water supply and sanitation services by 2030”.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Washing hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, yet millions of people around the world do not have access to safe and secure water. “

Covid outbreak: 3 in 10 people lack access

The report highlights that some progress has been made towards achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services.

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Indeed, between 2016 and 2020, the proportion of the world population with access to drinking water at home increased from 70% to 74% while access to safely managed sanitation services increased from 47% to 54%. The percentage of the population with access to facilities for washing hands with soap and water went up from 67% to 71%.

In addition, in 2020, for the first time, more people used pit latrines, septic tanks, and other improved on-site sanitation systems to effectively contain and treat waste.

To maintain progress, the two UN agencies stressed the need for governments to adequately support safely managed on-site sanitation, including faecal sludge. A group of displaced women collects water in the town of Djibo in Burkina Faso. UNOCHA / Naomi Frerotte A group of displaced women collect water in the town of Djibo in Burkina Faso.

An urgent need for investment

The report clarifies that if current trends continue, billions of children and families will remain without essential and life-saving WASH services.

Note that even though 81% of the world population will have access to drinking water at home, 1.6 billion people will still be deprived of it. Only 67% will have safe sanitation services, leaving 2.8 billion people behind. Even though 78% will have access to basic handwashing facilities, 1.9 billion people will still lack them. These are surely grim statistics.

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“If we are to end this pandemic and build more resilient health systems, investing in water, sanitation and hygiene must be a global priority,” Dr. Tedros insisted.

Inequalities prevail

The report also highlights deep inequalities, with vulnerable families and children hit the hardest.

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To achieve universal access to safely managed drinking water in the least developed countries by 2030, the study specifies that the progress made must be multiplied by ten. But in fragile contexts, where the risk of running out of drinking water is twice as high, this rate should be multiplied by 23, the report says.

“Despite the impressive progress we have made to date in growing these life-saving services, alarming and growing needs continue to outpace our responsiveness,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“Before the pandemic, millions of children and families already lacked clean water, safe sanitation, and a place to wash their hands,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Despite the remarkable progress made to date in extending these vital services, the growing and very worrying needs remain greater than the means at our disposal to meet them. It is time to dramatically step up our efforts to meet the most basic health and well-being needs of every child and family, especially by enabling them to fight infectious diseases like Covid-19”.

Women in the spotlight

For the first time, the report also presents emerging national data on menstrual health. In many countries, these data show that a significant proportion of women and girls are unable to meet their menstrual health needs. In addition, there are significant disparities among vulnerable groups, such as the poor and people with disabilities.

These inequalities don’t just affect the people subjected to them. A phenomenon like the pandemic, they have global ramifications. If everybody doesn’t have access to hygiene, then the community spread of Covid-19 cannot be stopped.

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