Every year on the 22nd March, the World commemorates the World Water Day with focus on the importance of access to freshwater. This day raises awareness about billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
In 2020, the day could not have come at a better time, when the focus is on COVID 19 and the spirited campaigns on hand washing and personal hygiene. One of the surest ways of keeping this pandemic at bay, is washing hands with clean water and soap for a duration of 20 seconds. However, the question is how many families can afford the luxury of washing hands these many times a day to keep the virus away? According to Water.org1 about 20.5 Million Kenyans lack access to safe water; this means that this group of people is twice more exposed to the virus. As the hand washing campaigns continue, various institutions have come up with strategies to establish hand washing points in shopping malls and entrance to business premises. But those that live in the informal settlements are a forgotten lot, this is a group whose priority is to access water for every day use and your guess is as good as mine, hand washing is not in this list. Have we stopped for a minute to imagine what would happen if the pandemic got its way into these settlements?
The other ignored institutions are our primary health care facilities; over the years, these facilities have run on a shoe string budget to the extent that hand washing points are inexistence. In our budget lines, we have always tied WASH facilities under the administration costs which mean that the WASH facilities literally get swallowed up. As we run our campaigns around washing hands, have we figured out these facilities? With COVID-19, prevention is the way to go, without hand washing areas and reliable water in our facilities can we still talk about prevention of COVID-19, is this still possible if clients that walk into our facilities on a daily basis cannot access clean water and soap for regular hand washing? As we talk about preparedness at the county level to tackle the pandemic, have we ensured that facilities have adequate water and soap to encourage hand washing as a preventive measure? As funds are being released to mitigate the impact of the disease, could this be an area for prioritization?
As we look at the #SAFEHANDSCHALLENGE it is important to remember that washing hands is not only excellent but safe in the face of the pandemic but only if we have access to clean water and soap.