Water tanks and water hygiene have come to the forefront as the Coronavirus pandemic. FILE PHOTO Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African news agency/ANA

Water debate at forefront of Covid-19 pandemic

“This pandemic highlights the need to get water back on the health agenda. There has been greater emphasis, and spend, on the treatment of water-associated diseases than on safe water supply and sanitation.”

DURBAN – Water tanks and water hygiene have come to the forefront as the Coronavirus pandemic is expected to impact poorest communities in Africa who have limited access to water for basic sanitation, hygiene and health.

With about 20 000 water tanks have been delivered around the country to communities in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mannie Ramos Jnr, chief operations officer of Abeco Tanks, a hygienic water storage company says short-term solutions are also not the answer to the systemic water problem in our communities.

“At the outset of the pandemic in South Africa, the entire supply of plastic Jojo tanks in the country was purchased, as the government rushed to provide informal settlements and communities with water. However, 5000 litres plastic water tanks are meant for individual home use, not for larger communities,” he said.

With regular hand-washing and maximum hygiene being recommended as a way to ward off the coronavirus, water is being provided to people living in informal settlements and water-deprived communities. There are also fears of a rapid spread of infections in highly dense informal settlements.

“This pandemic highlights the need to get water back on the health agenda. There has been a greater emphasis, and spend, on the treatment of water-associated diseases than on safe water supply and sanitation. There is a big gap in funding and reports show that a third was spent on water-related projects versus $30 billion spent annually on treatment of preventable water-related diseases,” he said.

According to a Unicef report, as schools return during Level 3, 2 and 1, the lack of  Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) facilities will be highlighted even further as 33 percent of schools in the country do not have sufficient facilities. Globally, approximately US$260 billion is lost each year to the effects of poor sanitation and unsafe water on many aspects of the economy, but most significantly on healthcare.

In conclusion, Ramos added that “proper water stewardship and investment in Water, Sanitation and Health infrastructure is necessary not only during this crisis but to meet the challenges of water scarcity that is predicted to worsen by 2030.”

 

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