Avoiding a humanitarian crisis - preparing for Covid-19’s peak to hit Africa

Avoiding a humanitarian crisis – preparing for Covid-19’s peak to hit Africa

Nearly a billion people in urban populations of Africa are facing a potential humanitarian crisis associated with Covid-19. Utilities in Africa have limited capacity to prevent the spread of infection. For example, they are already seeing 30 percent decreases in revenue. And they are projecting these decreases in revenue to double.

But the utilities must support fending off this disease by continuing to provide adequate water and sanitation services, combined with positive hygiene behavior messaging and augmenting services using tanker water to informal settlements. Furthermore, the utilities are being turned to by their governments to improve and expand services to provide safe drinking water, hand-washing facilities, and adequate sanitation to a greater number of people.

ROCKBlue is assisting water and sanitation utilities in developing systematic Coronavirus emergency management plans impacting over 4 million people. This will include supporting the execution of these plans, in line with national Covid-19 response activities. This will allow utilities to sustain and improve their current level of service delivery, extend delivery to underserved areas (particularly those serving low-income, vulnerable populations) and ensure sustainability post-Covid-19 crisis.

ROCKBlue maintains partnerships with seven water and sanitation utilities in southern Africa. These include: WASCO (Lesotho), LWSC (Zambia), LWB (Malawi), Ruwa/ Mutare/ Masvingo/ Kwekwe (Zimbabwe). The utilities are currently facing the following critical challenges as a result of the pandemic:

1) up to a 70 percent drop in revenue;

2) diminishing access to key staff who are sick or in isolation;

3) significant disruptions in their supply chain for critical materials such as chlorine;

4) staff health and safety concerns;

5) sanitation needs with limited resources; and

6) long-term impacts on their institution if they fail to sustain service during the emergency.

To manage these challenges, our already stressed water utility partners must identify and orchestrate a wide range of actions in a very short time, within their own operations and suppliers, and with a myriad of other government and civic entities.

In terms of when the height of the crisis will occur, the best predictions – and that is all that they are at this time – are that it will arrive in the July-September time frame.

While the short-term pandemic risk is very real and daunting, perhaps more insidious will be the long-term economic impact that could last years. In summary, water service providers in Africa are neither prepared for the short-term nor the long-term impacts. Avoiding a humanitarian crisis requires immediate action and we are here to make that happen for all our utility partners. Whether the water sector or others, there are many areas where you can donate. If not ROCKBlue, we recommend the Center for Disaster Philanthropy