Covid-19: UN experts urge access to water for poor people

25 March 2020 - 06:00 By ERNEST MABUZA
UN experts said global efforts to halt the spread of Covid-19 will not succeed without ensuring that those who are most vulnerable have constant access to clean water.
UN experts said global efforts to halt the spread of Covid-19 will not succeed without ensuring that those who are most vulnerable have constant access to clean water.
Image: Vincent Lali / GroundUp

UN experts have called for governments worldwide to provide continuous access to sufficient water for their populations living in the most vulnerable conditions during the coronavirus crisis.

The experts, including the special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, and independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Livingstone Sewanyan, said washing washing hands with soap and clean water was vital in the fight against the virus.

“The global struggle against the pandemic has little chance to succeed if personal hygiene, the main measure to prevent contagion, is unavailable to the 2.2-billion persons who have no to safe water,” the experts said.

An inter-ministerial press briefing was held in Pretoria to address key points around the #SAlockdown on March 24 2020. Ministers from the social cluster addressed key points around the Covid-19 pandemic and #SALockdown.

The experts called on governments to immediately prohibit water cuts to those who cannot pay water bills.

They said it was also essential that governments provide water free for the duration of the crisis to people living in poverty, and those affected by the upcoming economic hardship.

“People living in informal settlements, those who are homeless, rural populations, women, children, older persons, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and all other groups vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic need to have continuous access to sufficient and affordable water."

They said economically vulnerable people will become victims of a vicious cycle.

“Limited access to water makes them more likely to get infected. Infection leads to illness and isolation measures, making it difficult for people without social security to continue earning a living," the experts said.

The country’s economic hub, Johannesburg, could be a catalyst for the spread of the novel coronavirus. As South Africa prepares for a potential spike in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, we take a closer look at the most vulnerable areas in Johannesburg.


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