Coronavirus Crisis: 2.2b People Lack Safe Drinking Water To Prevent Spread


By Akanimo Sampson

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is adjusting its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services to prevent the spread of the killer coronavirus disease.

Teams are ensuring the continuity of operations that address environmental sustainability and accountability to the people it serves.

These projects are fundamental to fighting the virus, creating a more sustainable future and preserving the health and well-being of millions.

Sadly, amid the pandemic, 4.2 billion people are living without access to adequate sanitation. Some 2.2 billion others are lacking safe drinking water.

That, perhaps, explains why this week’s World Water Day is being marked in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis that is impacting every corner of the globe.

In the meantime, the devastating effects of climate change continue to compromise the ability of communities to access safe, clean water.

WASH is critical to human life. Effective WASH services extend from infrastructure and management to education and behaviour change, and they are essential for both short-term survival in emergency situations and long-term development.

IOM further recognises that well designed and implemented WASH interventions not only save lives but also build capacity and resilience to unforeseen future shocks and stressors.

Drinking water treatment, latrine design and construction, hygiene promotion, and the full slate of WASH activities are also integral to health, shelter, and other sectors of humanitarian action.

As one part of a comprehensive response, IOM ensures the delivery of appropriate WASH interventions by both direct provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion and through coordination with local and international partners.

Within the global WASH sector, IOM’s role has grown greatly in the past ten years. In 2018, IOM had active WASH interventions in 23 countries, reaching a total of 5.6 million beneficiaries, with major programmes in South Sudan, Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Somalia.

These 5.6 million beneficiaries represent a 25 per cent increase from 2017 and a 33 per cent increase from 2016.

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The IOM WASH strategic plan 2019-2022 is founded on four core principles that aim to guide the design and implementation of WASH interventions.

These principles exhibit the envisaged attributes and elements that IOM WASH interventions should strive for, with the underlying goal of being more accountable to the populations in need. The principles are:

  • Scalable: WASH infrastructure and services planned to appropriately and efficiently address the needs of the target populations during emergencies, designed to allow future upgrades to deliver a durable solution.
  • Immediate: WASH response is opportune to control the spread of water-borne diseases and to preserve the health of the target populations, with a focus on the severely affected and hard-to-reach.
  • Sustainable: WASH interventions, through the combination of the right approaches and technologies, empower and enable the target populations to take ownership and adapt to resolve current and future WASH needs.
  • Appropriate: WASH responses make use of technologies and approaches compatible with the needs, knowledge and circumstances of the receiving population, fundamentally addressing critical health hazards