WaterAid’s Foreign Aid Expands During COVID-19

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SEATTLE, Washington — During the COVID-19 pandemic, the global need for water is increasing. Whether for drinking or sanitation purposes, water supply is a constant concern for people in developing countries. To help with this increase in water demand, the international non-governmental organization WaterAid increased its foreign aid to countries where COVID-19 has threatened its clean water supply. 

WaterAid’s Expansion of Foreign Aid Programs

This year, WaterAid is expanding its foreign aid programs to support and educate those impacted by COVID-19. While each program’s specifics depend on which country it takes place in, there are four primary goals that WaterAid is focusing on through their programs. These goals consist of distributing handwashing stations to schools, clinics and other community areas, educating students and the public on hygiene, providing informative campaigns to communities and training healthcare workers on sanitation-related aid.

Although providing handwashing stations and clean water have always been WaterAid’s primary foreign aid programs, their expansion allows them to prevent recurrences of COVID-19 through proper handwashing stations and water supply. 

WASH and COVID-19

While WaterAid’s will provide 30 countries with varying forms of aid through its programs, the new plans will also abide by its commitment to providing universal access to water, sanitation and adequate hygiene (WASH). According to the World Health Organization, WASH is one of the most critical ongoing needs in developing countries, where access to safe drinking water can be scarce.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this need is only increasing due to the amount of handwashing and other sanitary precautions needed to reduce the transmission rate. The WHO released a statement on April 23, discussing how traces of COVID-19 remain in unclean water, which only reinforces the need for organizations such as WaterAid to provide water-related foreign aid to those in need.

Advocating for Universal Clean Water Access

Besides supplying foreign aid directly to countries in need, WaterAid has also been lobbying the World Health Assembly (WHA) for greater access to clean water. Starting in late April, WaterAid pushed for more significant legislation to protect vulnerable communities from any eventual COVID-19 outbreaks. As many of these communities remain either at-risk of infection or have become infected, WHA and WaterAid announced their seven-step plan to respond and rebuild from COVID-19. These steps include investing in WASH services, initiating the distribution of information about COVID-19 prevention and ensuring that the ministries involved with WASH have a say in the country’s plan for COVID-19. With these steps in place, WaterAid hopes that long-term goals can arise to help countries in need.

Through the implementation of its seven-step plan, WaterAid’s foreign aid has been able to help numerous countries throughout South America, Africa and Asia. Of those countries, WaterAid cites two of their successes thus far as being the new programs implemented in Tanzania, East Africa, and Cambodia, Asia. In both countries, their respective ministries of health and sanitation expanded their WASH services to better support their populations against COVID-19. For example, Tanzania focuses on its COVID-19 hotspots in the Geita region by distributing handwashing stations and updated information on the virus. Cambodia is taking similar steps, and, with the help from WaterAid, is reconfiguring its sanitation infrastructure to better cope with COVID-19 and any future infectious crises. 

Future Prospectives

Soon, WaterAid hopes to focus its programs on allowing equal access to water and sanitization resources worldwide. This equality will include similar resources regardless of gender, ability and ethnicity. For example, WaterAid stated that, due to the more significant percentage of female healthcare workers in developing countries, increased exposure to COVID-19 becomes an issue of gender inequality and public health. Women account for approximately 70% of the global health and social care workforce and are, thus, more likely to contract COVID-19. Additionally, sanitation programs often forget sanitation issues such as menstruation in their focus to fight the virus’s direct impacts. To rectify this inequality, WaterAid’s goals for future foreign aid programs include supporting women’s health and providing support systems for women in developing countries. 

Although the need for water and better sanitation systems will only increase as the pandemic continues, WaterAid is working to improve its foreign aid in impoverished countries. With its help, developing countries can protect vulnerable communities from the virus and help those infected.

-Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

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