In communities the world over–on TV, in print media, and online–we hear the same advice repeatedly: Wash your hands. Hand washing and social distancing have been highlighted as the primary means of avoiding the spread of the novel coronavirus. Healthcare experts around the world recognize hand washing as a key component of a comprehensive COVID-19 solution. In the U.S., the CDC has updated their hand washing guidelines to include specific instructions related to COVID-19. The EU lists hand washing as one of the keys to lifting COVID-19 containment measures across Europe. And UNICEF has issued detailed hand washing instructions to keep individuals and families safe during this pandemic.
An Impossible Choice
But what if the only water available to wash your hands was already contaminated with bacteria and parasites? If dirty water is your only option, do you have to choose between COVID-19 and typhoid, cholera, or any number of other waterborne illnesses? For over 2 billion people, this is the reality they face every day–whether to risk deadly illness or die from thirst.
According to a joint technical brief issued for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) professionals by UNICEF and the World Health Organization:
- Frequent and proper hand hygiene is one of the most
important measures that can be used to prevent
infection with the COVID-19 virus. WASH
practitioners should work to enable more frequent
and regular hand hygiene by improving facilities
and using proven behavior-change techniques.
- WHO guidance on the safe management of
drinking-water and sanitation services applies to the
COVID-19 outbreak. Extra measures are not needed.
Disinfection will facilitate more rapid die-off of the
- Many co-benefits will be realized by safely
managing water and sanitation services and
applying good hygiene practices.
In other words, the practices already being employed by organizations like Uzima and our partners around the world are “one of the most important measures” to guard against the spread of COVID-19. It is for this reason that Uzima has remained engaged and operational throughout this pandemic. We recognize the direct link between dirty water and the spread of disease, and that clean water must be part of any COVID-19 solution.
Areas of Focus
The World Bank has identified three water-related areas of priority in the emergency response to COVID-19.
- Safe WASH services in health care facilities to deliver quality health services; protect patients, health workers, and staff; and to prevent further transmission.
- Improving handwashing behavior, food hygiene, and safe water practices.
- Emergency support to secure and extend water and sanitation service provision.
Uzima is able to respond in all three areas. Our UZ-XL water filtration system provides facility-wide water filtration for health care and residential care facilities. Likewise, our WASH training and resources (including a printed hand washing guide on UZ-2 systems) are helping to improve hand washing and hygiene practices in the communities we serve. Additionally, all of our filtration solutions, including our UZ-2 household water filtration systems are providing clean, safe water to individuals, households, and facilities where clean water was not previously available.
As the world focuses on the novel coronavirus, we continue to set our sights on clean water: a valuable tool in the fight against COVID-19, and a long-term weapon in the battle against waterborne illness and death.