The World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research non-profit organization, has called for immediate implementation of solutions to increase water supplies and access for the most vulnerable, to address the spread of coronavirus throughout the world.
An 8 April blog emphasises that nearly 1 billion people live in conditions that frequent handwashing is difficult or impossible, saying that governments must “take steps to not only expand water access now to control COVID-19, but to create resilient communities by addressing the root problems of water insecurity...what’s also needed to foster resilience to disease outbreaks and other disasters is better water management".
The authors observe that organisations like WHO, UNICEF, UN-Water and Red Cross and Red Crescent are ramping up (coronavirus) assistance and that there are some examples from other disease outbreaks, such as Ebola in areas of Africa, that could provide immediate strategies: "For example, one effective approach uses simple two-bucket hand-washing stations, one with a spigot and a mix of water and chlorine to kill viruses and other pathogens, and another bucket below it to capture the used water".
"UN agencies, local governments and even private companies are building drinking water and hand-washing facilities in informal settlements, public places and high-traffic areas. For example, in Rwanda, a country where only 5 percent of the population has access to hand-washing facilities with soap and water, the city of Kigali recently installed portable hand-washing stations at bus stops, restaurants, banks, taxi queues and car parks to stop the spread of COVID-19. In Ethiopia, businesses, restaurants and apartment buildings placed water and soap outside their entrances".
WRI identifies three strategies that should be prioritised by governments:
- Super-charge investment in clean water access and sanitation. Experts estimate that approximately $500 Billion USD per year is required to meet global goals for water supply, sanitation and hygiene services in low-income countries. Such investment would be necessary to fight COVID-19 as well as more common diarrheal diseases. WRI points out that such funding would bolster local economies through job creation and increased wages.
- Effectively manage existing water resources so that ample clean water is available to communities. Current available research suggests that there is a deficit of 56 percent in water supply versus demand in the next 10 years. “How countries allocate and manage their available water supplies will flatten or steepen this water deficit curve.” Supplies are further reduced by water pollution, which is expanding in many parts of the world. WRI calls for effective long-term water management policies and more targeted approaches to increase water affordability.
- Massively boost investment in natural ecosystems: Wetlands, forested watersheds and floodplains are sources of clean water supplies but are efforts to retain and rebuild these sources are seriously underfunded, globally.
WRI's position is that all this is really affordable: “recent WRI research found that by spending just over 1 percent of global GDP – around 29 cents per person per day from 2015-2030 – the world could provide water security for all by 2030. These investments more than pay for themselves: Research shows that every dollar invested in sanitation services yields $6.80 in benefits".