Author: MC Créis is a Risk and Social Impact Director, and a ROCKBlue contributor.
The high contagiousness and rapid spread of COVID-19 have magnified the importance of access to potable water and sanitation. In the developing world, the risk of a humanitarian crisis due to large urban populations lacking access to these basic, and yet critical services has intensified since the pandemic. UN experts remind that “washing hands with soap and clean water is vital in the fight against COVID-19.” Frequent and thorough hand washing is among the most effective ways to contain the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including Coronavirus, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Yet, worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, two out of five people do not have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water, according to the United Nations.
On the ground, water service providers have faced many challenges since the pandemic hit. Some of these challenges involve seeing their revenues plummet by up to 70%, facing severe disruptions in their supply chain, and lacking access to reliable financing. These hurdles have placed utilities in an alarming position as they have been trying to keep up with a significant increase in customer demand for potable water and sanitation facilities.
Hand hygiene saves lives – washing hands with soap and water saves lives. This is why ROCKBlue joined up with the American Water Works Association, Global Water 2020, Medical Care Development and Water.org to create the Water is PPE Solidarity. The purpose of this solidarity is to create an awareness of the importance of water and the critical role that water suppliers / utilities play.
The Water is PPE Solidarity’s goal is simple: launch a global solidarity campaign and Public Service Announcement (PSA) to amplify that “Water is PPE”. Engage global key players in the healthcare and water sectors in the fight against COVID-19. Among these key players and decision makers, governments, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), utilities, private foundations, NGOs, bi/multilateral institutions, and aid agencies are the ones with the broadest outreach as well as the operational, and financial means to assist water service providers and their front-line workers. The range of solutions to be provided is wide, from funding emergency planning to allow, for instance, the extension of grace periods for those who are unable to pay their bills but need access to clean water, to deploying financial support, similarly to what was established after the 2004 tsunami.
The success of the fight against COVID-19 relies on collective action and coordinated efforts. This is the best way to overcome this pandemic, save lives, and supply sustainable solutions to future public health and economic challenges.