WASHMATA initiative, a non-governmental organization working on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Nigeria has raised major concern at the absence of WASH Services in National Task Force (NTF) Recommendations in this coronavirus pandemic period.
In a Press Statement signed and issued by the Executive Director of the Organisation, Dr Moboluwaji Onabolu, yesterday while commending the Federal Government efforts at containing the pandemic, emphasised the need for proactive and workable actions by the Presidential Task force on the provisions of adequate quantities of water for the citizens to achieve effective handwashing in curbing the spread of the deadly Covid19 in Nigeria.
According to the statement, “Silence of the Presidential Task Force on the provision of adequate quantities of water for people to wash their hands with soap under running water for 20 seconds as is being recommended by the WHO and the NCDC for the effective control of COVID 19 is very worrisome”.
“In a country where two thirds of the populace lack clean drinking water, 94% of the health facilities and almost all the overcrowded motor parks and markets (91%) lack water, sanitation and handwashing facilities; a plan to urgently and systematically provide WASH services, in the COVID-19 National response is critical otherwise it may result in an exponential rise in corona virus cases as is being seen in ‘super powers’ USA and Italy”.
“We entreat the task force and all citizens at large to understand that it will be extremely difficult for many Nigerians especially the poor and vulnerable, living in overcrowded urban slums and rural areas, to adhere to the handwashing recommendation. Thereby rendering the Task Force’s laudable interventions ineffective”
“Prevention and Treatment need water! Simply put “how can the citizens of Nigeria implement the preventive measure to wash hands with soap under running water for 20 seconds if there is no running water”?
Onabolu in her quick reaction, stressed that isolation centers would not function hygienically without adequate water, supply and sanitation thus unduly increasing the risk of infection of the extremely important medical personnel.
She stated that WHO Guidelines to countries on the effective use of this lock down period includes the equipping of treatment centers with critical facilities.
“It is not just about infrastructure, there have been several instances of citizens insisting that there is no Covid-19 in the country or washing their mouths with sanitizer due to a lack of sensitisation” she said in her statement.
“The WASH sector is trained in community mobilization and sensitization using water as an entry point into resistant communities, after all in the words of a famous musician every one loves water;i.e ‘water no get enemy’.” “The relegation of the Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene sector to the distant background is alarming and indicates a gap in global best practice of collaboration between WASH and Health which is required to prevent the corona virus from spreading like wild-fire in Nigeria.”
“A key indicator of the poor integration of WASH into the Covid-19 response plan is the absence of the Minster for Water Resources on the Presidential Task Force, though the Ministry is statutorily responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene services in the country; a major component of the global responses to Covid-19.
“We must do all we can not to go down the route of the USA, Italy and Spain; failing to implement preventive measures, their normally robust health systems are overwhelmed, and medical personnel are being infected. The present response can be strengthened by incorporating the WASH in emergencies partnership with Health sector” the statement said.
Nevertheless, WASHMATA in its statement recommends that to foster the required Health and WASH Partnership there is need for:
1. Urgent inclusion of the Minister for Water Resources, Commissioners for Water Resources and Heads of the Rural Water, Supply and Sanitation Agencies in the National and State Task Forces for Covid-19.
2. Support the FMWR, SMWR and RUWASSAs to trigger the WASH disaster response mechanism already in place for WASH related emergencies such as Covid-19.
3. Collaborate with the FMWR, SMWR and RUWASSAs to ensure that facilities at which Covid-19 cases are managed have adequate water supply, sanitation and handwashing facilities.