Many SWA partner countries across the globe are at various stages of COVID-19 spread and are sharing with us the steps they are taking to prevent and respond to this pandemic.
SWA counts among its partners many who are working at the frontlines–both at the global level, such as WHO, UNICEF– and at the national level-through government agencies, civil society, private sector and research institutes. At the current critical time, access to reliable information, promising practices and thought leadership is crucial.
Therefore, through this live-blog, we will be regularly sharing the approaches our partners are taking to the COVID-19 emergency, and how they are using multi-stakeholder platforms to strengthen preparedness, response and coordination.
Bangladesh: Strategic Paper to respond to WASH issues
The Government of Bangladesh has launched a strategic paper to respond to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues during & after the COVID-19 Outbreak. The vision is to “limit COVID-19 transmission through safe water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) services, practices and behaviors, focusing on ensuring continuity and expanded accessibility of WASH services, which have proven to protect human health”.
The Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (MoLGRD&C) seeks to achieve continuity and improve equitable access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in response to COVID-19. To accomplish this mission, MoLGRD&C will need to swiftly adapt to changing needs and vulnerabilities while adapting processes to safely operate for both service providers and users. In coordination with the Ministries responsible for Health, Information, Education, Religious Affairs and all local, national and international stakeholders, MoLGRD&C will actively support the people in Bangladesh to consistently practice personal hygiene and handwashing in line with WHO recommendations to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading. This strategy will supplement the intervention areas for Risk Communication, and Infection Prevention and Control of the National Preparedness and Response Plan (NPRP) for COVID-19, Bangladesh.
Key Strategic Objectives are as follows:
- Ensure continuity of water and sanitation services: Bangladesh is an extremely densely populated country with 168 million people. Around 121 million people take their water from tube wells, around 47 million people have access to water through piped water systems or other sources. During the dry season (March to June), around 10% (over 1.7 million) water points or production pumps become non-functional in Bangladesh. From July to October, recurring floods and cyclones interrupt and destroy water services across the country. With frequent handwashing being a critical measure to prevent COVID-19 transmission, ensuring uninterrupted water supply is essential for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.
- Expand water coverage in areas at high risk and are most vulnerable in Bangladesh: Social distancing and staying home are the other imperative measures for flattening the COVID-19 curve. In Bangladesh, roughly 30 million people, mostly women and girls, have to travel an approximate 30-minute distance to collect water for their households every day. Predominantly, this is the case in Chittagong Hill Tracks, saline prone coastal areas, Hoar2 and Char areas. The expansion of water services to reduce this water collection time is essential for addressing COVID-19. Urban slum areas are another area with an extremely heightened risk of transmission, including when accessing water supply services: Often, more than 20 people are getting water from one tap stand at a time, without the possibility for practicing social distancing. Women and girls as the primary collectors of water in over 90% of the households in Bangladesh are disproportionately more exposed.
- Improve WASH services in critical institutions: Frequent handwashing with soap and water is till now known as one of the most important and cost-effective prevention measures for COVID-19. Healthcare facilities and quarantine centers require adequate handwashing places with running water and soap. Improving handwashing facilities in healthcare facilities is most critical to ensure the safety of both healthcare staff and patients. At the same time, it is very important to ensure professional medical waste management, especially in healthcare facilities and quarantine centers.
- Improve water quality of water supply systems: To disinfect the water sources and testing water quality is a prerequisite to provide improved safe water in potentially unstable situations. In this regard, cleaning and disinfection of water points will be carried out by DPHE and municipal field staff on an emergency basis.
- Testing of wastewater is a potential monitoring tool for the spread of COVID-19: In densely populated areas testing of wastewater can assist in advanced warning of further outbreaks, as new waves of COVID-19 affect the country.
- Sector Coordination and Monitoring: Physical movement from the central level to the local level is less and less advisable. However, intersectoral coordination, vertical and horizontal communication of executive decisions is essential to ensure uninterrupted WASH services. The needed virtual platforms and digital tools have to be in place and must to be used effectively to ensure dynamic sector coordination and monitoring.
Virtual meeting to discuss "Bangladesh Strategic Paper on Response to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene issues during & after the COVID19 Outbreak". Minister of LGRD&C, Mr Tajul Islam also part of this meeting #SWAinAction @DaraJohnston pic.twitter.com/KJ9tjztPt8— Siddhartha Das (@ronsid2000) May 5, 2020
Guinea: WASH Cluster reactivated in COVID-19 response
In Guinea, the National Health Security Agency (ANSS) under the Ministry of Health has reactivated the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) Cluster. The decision was taken by the Director-General of ANSS, due to the following reasons:
- Considering the worrying situation of the COVID-19 epidemic which is a national emergency,
- Considering the important need for WASH services in institutions (such as health facilities, schools, technical services, etc.), the public spaces and communities,
- Considering the experience of Ebola and the critical role that the WASH sector played in response and recovery
- Considering the contribution of WASH control efforts in COVID-19 support, in particular for the following pillars- i) Risk communication and community engagement ii) Case management (in particular in support of care structures) iii) Infection Prevention and Control, and iv) Continuity of services
The WASH cluster brings together all government actors, civil society, the private sector and technical and financial partners. It is a framework for exchange and consultation, advocacy and resource mobilization for the preparation and implementation of the COVID-19 response.
Madagascar: Multi-sectoral Government Sanitation Plan
During the SWA webinar on 'Eliminating Inequalities in the WASH response to COVID-19', Hon. Voahary RAKOTOVELOMANANTSOA, the Minister of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene discusses how Madagascar is addressing inequalities in its WASH response to COVID-19. Here’s a brief outline:
- Government structures are working at the community level to identify the most vulnerable populations, through a collaboration between the ministry in charge of social protection and the ministry of water and sanitation.
- Committees are set up with civil society organizations, with a clear set of criteria to identify vulnerable groups (mainly based on revenue and level of access to services). These committees also establish a feedback mechanism to share the concerns of the vulnerable groups with government entities. The State is also providing subsidies to groups identified by the committees. Additionally, vouchers are being distributed to the most vulnerable.
- However, more attention must be paid to the needs of disabled communities whose access to facilities is often challenging. For this purpose, NGOs are starting to develop some awareness material.
- More broadly, all schools are now equipped with at least 4 handwashing facilities. Access to handwashing facilities has also been increased at the community level. The government is in discussion with private sector entities to expand the coverage. Moreover, the provision of services in essential places (health centers, transport hubs, schools) is a priority in the Government’s Emergency Sanitary Plan (Plan Sanitaire d’Urgence). This plan is multi-sectoral.
- WASH has always been at the center of the response during public health outbreaks, especially in terms of messaging and awareness-raising campaigns. However, the funding for the sector is limited and would need to be increased to respond to the needs of all populations.
To listen to the full presentation by Madagascar in French, click the video link below:
Peru: Emergency Decree to ensure continuity of services
During the SWA Webinar on 'Eliminating Inequalities in the WASH response to COVID-19', Max Carbajal, Sanitation Director, Ministry of Housing, Building and Sanitation discussed the steps that taken by the Government of Peru in reaching out to the most marginalized in COVID-19 response:
- Emergency Decree has been issued, according to which a) there is an urgent need to reduce the impact of compulsory social security on households and b) ensuring continuity in the provision of sanitation services.
- Both regional and local Governments are prioritizing their actions to ensure the provisions of the Emergency Decree in their jurisdiction. Agreement or agreements with third parties that have cisterns so that providers of small cities can distribute in vulnerable areas.
- Measures have been taken to ensure continuity of WASH services to households, especially the vulnerable populations, such as postponing tariffs payment and non-cancellation of service for no payment.
- COVID-19 is a great hazard and has affected the Operation and Maintenance and sustainability of WASH Utilities. There are financial strategies to compensate for the income reduction of the operators, mainly urban, through the use of investment funds.
To listen to the full presentation in Spanish, click on the video below:
Honduras: Focusing on reconnections and sustainability
During the SWA Webinar on 'Eliminating Inequalities in the WASH response to COVID-19', Arnoldo Caraccioli, Director and Coordinator, Regulatory Body for Drinking Water and Sanitation Services (ERSAPS) discussed the following steps taken by the Government of Honduras to address inequalities in its COVID-19 response plan:
- In March, ERSAPS issued a resolution with the following measures for providers:
a) Water and Sanitation Service Providers shall suspend for a period of three months or until the crisis is overcome the service cuts due to lack of payment.
b) Immediately reinstall drinking water and sanitation services for those users whose service has been suspended due to lack of payment, except for those who have been connected clandestinely.
c) It is understood that, in accordance with Article 6 of the Regulation on Services, under no circumstances will there be a normal supply of free drinking water and sewerage services, nor special contracts or agreements that stipulate prices that are higher or lower than the rates that are legally in force, therefore, this transitory measure does not imply the remission of a debt.
d) It also orders the temporary suspension of tariff adjustments during the period of the Sanitary Emergency
- According to Executive Decree PCM-21-2020 of the Government of Honduras and based on a resolution established by ERSAPS, the country's water and sanitation service providers must formalize the commitment of the users to meet their obligations to pay tariffs in a timely and sustained manner once the crisis is over. This must be done through the support of the government via economic stimuli through national banks, access to credit with preferential interest rates, the availability of loan guarantees and the provision of specialized technical and financial assistance where needed.
- In order to better coordinate with the key sector stakeholders, a COVID-19 emergency coordination and response plan has been defined, together with service providers and the Association of Drinking Water and Sanitation Service Providers (AHPSAS).
To listen to the full presentation in Spanish, click on the video below:
Kenya: Facilitating community monitoring in COVID-19 response
During the SWA Webinar on 'Eliminating Inequalities in the WASH response to COVID-19', Eng. Kimanthi Kyengo, Acting Director– Sanitation Management and Head of Development Cooperation, Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation presented the following steps that the Kenyan Government is taking to reach the vulnerable communities:
- Government is working through National and County WASH coordination committees and facilitating community monitoring. The ministry is developing digital platforms for information and insights sharing – with the input of local and community leaders.
- Coordinating approaches to identify hot spots across the country and the vulnerable groups like those living in informal settlements, low income casual daily workers, rural population, pastoralists, people with disabilities, prisoners, and refugees.
- Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation of is also advocating for increased investment in the sector.
- Ministry is providing handwashing facilities in key areas and tankers for water. Different partners are supporting the distribution of water tanks, soap, water, soap in different areas and hot spots like informal settlements and refugees.
Listen to the full presentation by the Kenyan Government, on the link below:
How Malawi is addressing inequalities in COVID-19 response
SWA Government focal point in Malawi and Director at Ministry of Water and Irrigation Development, Emma Mbalambe highlights Government's approach to identify the needs of the vulnerable population and how best to address them in a participatory manner in general and not only during COVID-19 response. Following are the key measures that the Government of Malawi is taking to eliminate inequalities in WASH response to COVID-19:
- The Ministry of Water and Irrigation Development is making sure the vulnerable are taken into consideration with explicit mapping and targeting of potentially disadvantaged– to find out where they are and ensuring their needs are addressed, especially focusing on visually impaired, people with physical disabilities and albinism.
- In terms of creating policies and taking water and sanitation actions which target the vulnerable and those left behind, the Government of Malawi is taking the following steps:
a) In Malawi, Mutual Accountability Mechanism is in place, ensuring the Government and its development partners are accountable through Joint Sector Review processes, CSO performance report and evidence from GLAAS.
b) At National and district level, the Government is making sure to include voices of interest groups, such as Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) and Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) to promote inclusive approaches. The aim is to position Malawi as a front runner in innovation on Leave No One Behind (LNOB)/Equality and Non-Discrimination (EQND) approaches to ensure everyone is served.
c) Some measures include consulting with disadvantaged people, strengthening partnerships with CSOs, working with vulnerable communities and interpreters for Finger Braille and sign language to train them on technical content to provide information in different formats to reach people with disabilities
- Malawi is working with representatives of local groups and actors. To ensure the inclusion of people who are left behind, such as the blind, the old, chronically sick to make sure their voice and interest is heard. Working with WES network, the network of WASH CSOs in Malawi to identify and include non-state actors, such as Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) involved in WASH.
To listen to the full presentation by Malawi, click on the link below:
Nepal: Building local capacity to reach vulnerable communities
Dr Rajit Ojha from the Ministry of Water Supply discusses how the Government of Nepal is identifying the most vulnerable populations to provide critical services during COVID-19 crisis. Some key policy measures are highlighted below:
- For identifying the most vulnerable populations, the Ministry of Water Supply has a preparedness plan based on estimated caseload and population, coordinated through a WASH cluster. The ministry is trying to trickle down guidance to local government and build on existing MIS of the ministry that identifies unserved areas and populations, with data showing the category of service against vulnerability profiles. The WASH assessments of health care facilities are used to target support, and the ministry is currently developing digital platforms. Hygiene data is not covered in the MIS– this needs to be included to consider subsidy for hygiene for vulnerable households. Integrated WASH plan of local government is instrumental to remove inequalities, using the robust and live MIS with financial planning.
- In terms of providing services, the Government of Nepal has taken immediate measures, including water trucking and distribution of disinfectant to vulnerable communities. Additionally, the Government is subsidizing water tariffs, but there is a question about how to get revenue for water operators. The Ministry of water supply is also working with ministries responsible for women and children.
- The ministry is seeking to strengthen local government on the WASH sector programming and monitoring, using output-based sector funding to empower local governments. Measures have been put in place to strengthen the vulnerable population include improving services and empowerment through access to jobs and posts.
To listen to the full presentation by Nepal Government, click on the video below:
COVID-19 response: UK Government launches Hygiene Coalition
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, Hon. Wendy Morton, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development discussed the following steps that the UK Government is taking in other countries around COVID-19:
- In the UK, one of the real concerns centers around the impact that coronavirus will have on countries with lower capacity housing systems and where access to water and sanitation is limited. The response that the UK makes to COVID-19 has to be tailored to the context, for instance in areas where physical distancing is harder, water and hygiene become all the more important.
- So far, the UK has pledged 544 million pounds of aid to help respond to current COVID-19 pandemic.
- A Hygiene Coalition has been launched with funding from DFID and Unilever, along with other partners (notably London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and civil society organisations) to develop handwashing interventions at scale. A total of 100M Euros have been set aside to support countries for behaviour-change campaigns and hygiene-related products. Twenty priority countries have been identified in Asia, Africa and the Americas.
To listen to the full presentation by Hon. Wendy Morton, click on the video below:
Peru: Focus on ensuring continuity of WASH services
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, Hon. Julio Kosaka Harima, Deputy Minister of Building and Sanitation of the Peruvian Ministry of Housing, Building and Sanitation highlighted the following steps being taken the Government to maintain continuity of services to access water and sanitation:
- The Government of Peru is providing financial and technical (in terms of maintenance) support to water utilities, so they don’t collapse and are able to continue to provide services to the population
- The WASH Ministry works closely with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to provide COVID-19 related modules in hospitals and schools, respectively.
- To remove cost barriers to accessing water, the Government is providing water services free of charge to the poorest and vulnerable groups
To listen to the full presentation by Peru, click on the video below:
Liberia: WASH needs more attention in COVID-19 response
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, Amb. Bobby Whitfield, Chairman and CEO, National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Commission, Liberia discussed the following steps being taken by the Government in response to COVID-19 challenge:
- The President of Liberia has constituted and chair the Special Presidential Advisory Committee on Coronavirus (SPACOC) with the aim and objective of coordinating the fight against COVID-19 in the country.
- The technical response is led by Incident Management System, co-headed by Ministry of Health, with several pillars like contact tracing, case management, and water, sanitation and hygiene. WASH is a standalone pillar, led by the National WASH Commission with several ministries involved.
- As seen globally, WASH is a forgotten issue in the COVID-19 response and is not high on the agenda. We are mobilizing the Government in Liberia to put WASH as one of the key components in response to this pandemic.
To listen to the full presentation by Liberia, click on the video below:
Eswatini: Ensuring continuity and affordability of services
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, Hon. Senator Peter Bhembe, Minister for Natural Resources and Energy discusses how Eswatini is dealing with the challenges being posed by COVID-19 crisis. Following are the key points from his presentation, especially focused on the affordability of services:
- As water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is the first line of defense in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Eswatini is ensuring that the citizens have continued access to water and sanitation services during the crisis. This is done by providing water tanks and hand washing facilities to most of the areas in the country.
- The Government has deferred by two months the increase in water tariffs
- A resource mobilization team has been established to fundraise for interventions related to COVID-19
- Government has also deployed teams to step up rehabilitation of the non-functional water supply schemes to ensure these schemes deliver water to the communities they are meant to serve. In rural areas, water is provided through bore-holes, so these are the ones being rehabilitated.
- The country is looking at sustainable solutions post-crisis, including private sector involvement for rural WASH, strengthening the WASH Forum for coordinating the sector and real-time monitoring of WASH facilities.
Click on the link below, to watch full presentation by Eswatini:
SWA Webinar:Malawi's Finance Minister presents COVID-19 response
The Malawian Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Hon. Joseph Mwanamvekha discussed key water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions that the Government is taking in response to COVID-19. A summary below:
- The President formed a cabinet committee on COVID-19 as soon as the first cases started appearing in China. This committee is chaired by the Minister of Health and also includes the Finance Minister. The Committee has prepared a COVID-19 response plan and has identified 10 operational clusters, of which WASH is one.
- The Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development leads the WASH cluster and is co-chaired by the UNICEF Malawi country office. The overall objective of the WASH cluster programme is the reduction of mortality caused by COVID-19 by providing appropriate WASH services in the districts are affected by and are at risk of COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, this plan is to provide a safe water supply in adequate quantities to affected populations and emergency treatment units. One of the priority actions is to provide gender-responsive sanitation and hygiene facilities in emergency treatment units.
- Government is also ensuring that there is a coordinated WASH response to COVID-19 outbreak with other service providers at national, district and sub-district levels.
Click on the video below to see the full presentation from Malawi:
Nigeria: WASH response plan to combat COVID-19
The Nigerian Minister of Water Resources, Hon. Eng. Suleiman H. Adamu presented the country’s response to COVID-19 which priorities the availability of water and sanitation services to the all, especially the vulnerable. Following is a brief outline from his presentation during the SWA ministerial webinar:
- The Centre is working with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) agencies in all 36 States to understand and respond to their needs. This is being done through the establishment of the WASH sector COVID-19 response committee. The Ministry is also talking to the State Water Agencies to understand what support can be provided to them, especially around the water quality issues.
- Collaboration with the Health ministry (as well as others) to coordinate the response to COVID-19 through established forums like the Task Group on Sanitation and the inter-ministerial committee on COVID-19.
- Leveraging support from Private Sector through OPSWASH (Organized Private Sector for WASH in Nigeria) to install hands-free hand washing facilities and then to supply these units to vulnerable places.
- The ministry is targeting public places to provide water and sanitation facilities- targetting the vulnerable areas without handwashing facilities, especially the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the camps.
- The Ministry is also doing a lot of advocacy through media and radio jingles to create awareness on taking preventive steps like handwashing and social distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19.
To listen to the full presentation by the minister, click on the link below:
Madagascar: Subsidies and water kiosks for the most vulnerable
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, Honorable Voahary RAKOTOVELOMANANTSOA, the Madagascar Minister of water, sanitation and hygiene, outlined the following steps taken by the Government to make WASH services affordable for all during the COVID-19 crisis:
- The Government has put in place an emergency social plan, which was earlier focused on food items but will now be extended to other services such as water and sanitation
- A majority of the population in Madagascar sustains on small-scale agriculture and are now unable to pay for water services. Therefore, the government has granted that people will not pay for water services for 2 months.
- The Government is providing subsidies and setting up kiosks for the most vulnerable who don’t have water accessibility in their houses
- The government will also provide continued subsidy to support companies for 4 – 6 months and is looking to raise the requisite funding.
To listen to the full presentation by Madagascar available on the link below:
Colombia: Focus on low-income families in WASH response
During the SWA ministerial webinar, the Vice Minister of Water at Ministry of Housing, City and Territory, Hon. Jose Luis Acero Vergel discussed the steps taken by the Government of Colombia in response to COVID-19. A brief summary below:
- To render water, sanitation and hygiene services accessible, the government has issued an emergency decree to request water companies to reconnect water supply for around 200,000 poorest families (despite bill payment defaults) that means over 1 million people are receiving water supply.
- To help people with the expenses, the government has frozen any increase in water tariffs/rates that were expected for this specific quarter of the year.
- For low-income families, the government has put in place a long-term approach to ensure that they are not affected by due bills even after the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, if a family's bill averages USD 10 per month over the coming 3 months, then they will have to pay only up to 10% more for the rest of the 33 months. The rest of the bill can be delayed for 36 months, with 0% interest.
- Other short-term measures include credit lines for companies to help them stay afloat and freezing of import taxes on articles related to WASH.
To listen to the full presentation by Colombia click on the video below:
Maldives: WASH is a priority in COVID-19 response
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, the Minister of Environment, Hon. Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan talked about the impact of COVID-19 in the Maldives and the government’s response to tackling this crisis:
- Delivering water, sanitation and hygiene is a priority for the Government of Maldives. Usually, during the dry season, the government has to provide water to the islands as Maldives is a geographically fragmented country and not all islands are connected. During COVID-19 crisis, all the islands will be provided with sufficient water for drinking and other purposes.
- For the COVID-19 emergency, the Government has allocated 2.6 billion Maldivian Rufiyaas, of which 300 million Maldivian Rufiyaas is for water and sanitation
- The government has reduced electricity charges by 40% and water charges by 30% to the end-user by subsidizing these services.
- The Government is currently accelerating the supply of sanitation and hygiene services to all islands, and the country is on track to achieve universal coverage of piped water and sanitation in the next 3-4 years.
To listen to the full presentation by Hon. Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan, click on the video below:
Bangladesh: Massive stimulus package to combat COVID-19
The Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, Hon. Md Tazul Islam has highlighted the important role of WASH in combating COVID-19 pandemic, especially in a densely populated country such as Bangladesh. During the SWA Ministerial webinar, he presented key actions taken by the Government in Bangladesh:
- Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina has unveiled a massive economic stimulus package of $8.5 billion in response to COVID-19
- Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives has given $4 million to provide hand washing stations and make hygiene products available to the public in Bangladesh. The World Bank and UNICEF have also provided some financial support for purchasing soaps.
- The official order was given not to disconnect any water supply because of non-payment of bills
- A massive awareness campaign has been launched (both in urban and rural areas) to highlight increased importance of handwashing as the first preventive measure for COVID-19
- Engagement with Civil Society to work collectively on fighting this pandemic
To listen to the full intervention by Hon. Md Tazul Islam at the SWA Ministerial webinar, click below:
Burkina Faso: WASH-focused commitments for COVID-19
During the SWA Ministerial webinar, the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Hon. Nioguga Ambroise Ouedraogo presented the action plan of his ministry to respond to COVID-19 crisis in Burkina Faso. A brief summary below:
- The Government has contributed $10 million for COVID-19 pandemic response
- A national-level coordination body called CORUS (Centre des Opérations de Réponse aux Urgences Sanitaires) has been created that includes various government departments, including health, research, among others.
- The Government of Burkina Faso has decided to make water free for the first three months (April-June) than a reassessment will be done of the situation.
- Efforts of mass mobilization and awareness creation underway, wherein people are asked to respect the prevention and control advisory by the Government
Click on the video below to see the full presentation from Burkina Faso:
Ghana: WASH action plan on COVID-19 pandemic
During the SWA Ministerial Webinar, the Ghanaian Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Hon. Cecilia Dapaah highlighted the plans that have been put in place to ensure access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all, including those informal settlements. Some of the key WASH interventions to combat COVID-19 pandemic are as follows:
1) The Government will absorb the water bills of all Ghanaians from April to June, worth approximately $40 million to support handwashing and sanitation. All the water agencies in rural, peri-urban and urban areas have been asked to provide water for free to all Ghanaians, even those who were in arrears on their water bills.
2) All water service tankers, both public and private, have been recommended to supply water to vulnerable areas and communities to ensure that minimum water requirement for each household is met. The Government continues to roll out the WHO protocols, especially on facilitating handwashing under running water with soap. All Ghanaians, especially those in the lockdown areas, have been provided with handwashing facilities and legislators are also talking about personal hygiene with their constituencies. The Community Water and Sanitation Agency under the ministry, which has the mandate to teach and educate on proper handwashing procedure, is continuing its crucial work during this pandemic.
3) The Ministry of Finance is leading on collaboration efforts with other stakeholders to ensure long term financial sustainability of service provision and leveraging resources. A $600m stimulus package has been announced by the Government and provided to Parliament. The Ministry of Sanitation is working with the finance ministry and has submitted the budget to pay for water in both urban and rural and also for the sanitation work. The ministry will continue with the agenda to provide water for all, handwashing education and sensitization and continue with the project of ending open defecation by building more household toilets.
The full presentation by Ghana on the link below:
The Gambia: Making WASH a political and financial priority
The Gambia Government has developed a National COVID-19 response plan and budget, that incorporates interventions to ensure continuity of WASH services. The World Bank has committed $10m towards supporting the Gambia Government to prepare, plan, respond and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources (MoFWR) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been lobbying for some allocations towards the WASH sector to ensure services are improved during and after COVID-19.
Currently, the WASH team is engaging in the following activities to respond to COVID-19 pandemic in the Gambia:
- In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and government partners (UN Agencies and the Gambia Red Cross), rapid assessment of WASH situation was conducted to determine adequate availability of WASH facilities and supplies concerning COVID-19 preparedness and response
- Based on the assessment findings, distribution of sanitation and hygiene supplies (handwashing stations, waste disposal containers, detergents, disposable face masks, sanitizers, gloves etc.) to the public and its placement at some strategic places (such as ferry crossings, border crossings, Health Care Facilities, markets, and garages) in the country is being done to manage infection prevention and control.
- Engagement of community and households in sanitation and hygiene promotion, particularly proper handwashing with soap through print, electronic and social media among other channels.
Measures put in place for the vulnerable groups:
The Government of the Gambia has already taken a series of actions to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as establishing a National Task Force, curtailing travel, suspending large-scale gatherings aimed at mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 to the entire population. However, additional steps have been taken to 'leave no one behind':
- Risk Communication and Community Engagement: aimed at creating awareness among the general population about COVID-19 through flyers, posters, use of electronic (both Television and Radio) and social media to broadcast messages related prevention and symptoms, hygiene and sanitation with a major focus on handwashing with soap has been intensified.
- The Government and Partners are working round the clock to improve WASH services in communities and institutions through the provision of basic services such as improved access to potable water supply facilities and hand washing facilities to vulnerable and marginalized population as well as improving access to basic sanitation services.
- Through the support of the Saudi Development Fund, additional 50,000 rural people will have access to safe and quality drinking water by the end of April 2020.
- Ensuring the involvement of communities in the management of WASH infrastructures and the development of WASH programs and activities geared towards vulnerable communities.
- To involve the vulnerable communities in decisions making to improve WASH services in their respective communities especially with regards to handwashing with soap which is one of the key preventive measures for COVID-19.
- Built-in water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure especially for health care facilities, border crossings, vulnerable households and schools through installing emergency water supply systems, provision of sanitation facilities, waste disposal facilities and WASH emergency kits.
Namibia: Focus on re-connections and relief package
On 18th March, the President of the Republic of Namibia, Hon. Dr Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency in the country following the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have been put in place. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) is focusing on providing the critical services, especially based on food production value chain, water supply and sanitation services as well as maintaining the related infrastructure.
Recently, the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development has given directives to all Local Authorities and Regional Councils to re-connect all disconnected water supplies to households, even if they were in arrears. Additionally, water tankers services will be provided in remote areas. These decisions were taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Minister of Finance Hon. Iipumbu Shiimi has launched an Economic, Stimulus and Relief package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Dr Bernhard Haufiku, former Minister of Health and Social Service, was recently appointed as the COVID-19 National Coordinator. He holds regular press briefings along with the current Minister of Health, Dr Kalumbi Shangula. There has been increased messaging on intensifying basic hygiene practices at all times. The Ministry of Health and Social Services has established a Call Centre with a toll-free number (0800100100), which operates 24/7.
Zimbabwe: WASH contingency plan for COVID-19 response
The Zimbabwe government has ramped up the COVID-19 response, by developing USD 1.35 million WASH contingency plan to respond to the pandemic. This plan has USD 265,000 for preparedness activities, USD 1.059 million for response activities and USD 30,000 for coordination.
To strengthen the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), the following activities have been planned:
- Augmenting water supply by Local Authorities and Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA). The Government has committed to releasing ZW$100 million for procurement of water treatment chemicals. Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has been requested to ensure minimal to no load shedding for all power lines feeding water treatment plants
- Emergency rehabilitation of water supply systems including strengthening water quality surveillance. Around 2000 rural boreholes have been targeted for rehabilitation, 9 boreholes have been drilled at Parirenyatwa hospital, Harare. Additional boreholes will be drilled in rehabilitation centres that holding children, living and working on the streets
- In areas with perennial municipal water supply challenges, government through private sector players is assisting residents with bulk water trucking. Government is also planning to procure 5 water bowsers per province to build own capacity and cut down on the bill of procuring this service from private sector players
- Development of standard operating procedures for identified IPC areas to guide partners and harmonise the response, especially for water supply, sanitation and hygiene delivery, and also for markets including grocery shops, Non-Food Items (NFI) distribution
- Decontamination of high-risk areas, especially all public gathering areas like bus terminals, markets, etc.
- Support for IPC in health care facilities/COVID isolation centres & distribution of hygiene kits in communities underway
- Strengthening education on hygiene and prevention with an underlying theme of hand washing and social distancing. Strengthening awareness of COVID-19 through radio and television shows, jingles, SMS messaging & newspapers
- Hand washing stations are a must for all public buildings
- Activation of Emergency Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to assist with targeted interventions in an areas
Libera: SWA CEO speaks to National WASH Commission
SWA CEO Catarina de Albuquerque had a virtual meeting with Ambassador Bobby Whitfield, Chairman and CEO of the National WASH Commission of Liberia to learn from country experience on COVID-19 and to share the experience with other SWA partners. The CEO of WASH Commission is currently leading on the coordination efforts for the WASH Pillar of COVID-19 response in the country.
Key discussion points from the call:
- Liberia’s quick and immediate reaction is due to the Incident Management System (IMS) which was put in place for Ebola response, that has now transitioned into a mechanism for addressing COVID-19 response. The IMS comprises several pillars for emergency response, including the WASH and Dead Body Management, as part of its structure to lead and respond to this pandemic. The core mandate of the WASH and Dead Body Management Pillar is to assist the IMS in ensuring water, sanitation, hygiene, food safety, waste and dead body management standards, guidelines, policies, practices, protocols and messages, including consumables relative to COVID-19 are made available across Liberia and are in line with the WHO and UNICEF guidelines and standards.
- High-level political involvement to educate Liberian Citizens with 'Clean hands, Preventing the Virus' campaign. President George Weah has also released a song to raise awareness about coronavirus.
- For communities without water, attempts are being made to rehabilitate existing wells and put in place the new ones.
- The Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation has not yet decided to stop cutting connections for those who don’t pay because it can’t afford the cost. However, it seems open to the possibility of doing so if funding is available to supplement the costs
- Liberia aims to come out of this pandemic with sustainable measures such as increasing access to water, reducing open defecation, and entrenching handwashing in daily life.
Civil Society partnering with Government on COVID-19 response
The Civil Society Organizations working in the WASH Sector are effectively working with the national government to combat the spread of COVID-19. Recently, a meeting was held with the Legislative WASH Caucus, wherein, CSOs requested the lawmakers' to support this fight against COVID-19 through budget allocation. A joint plan of government, civil society and partners is developed under the WASH Pillar to implement activities of COVID-19 prevention and awareness.
Eswatini: Ensuring access to safe water to affected communities
The overall objective of WASH sector actors, both government and other stakeholders, in Eswatini is to ensure access to adequate safe water for the affected communities and institutions. This would help in ensuring that favourable conditions prevail for maintaining hygiene conditions and practices at the household and facilities level.
Specific Objectives for COVID-19 response:
- Ensure affected communities have access to enough quantity of safe water and can maintain appropriate standards of hygiene practices.
- Encourage adaptation of alternate sources and sustainable use of water at the household, community and institutional level.
- Enough hygiene kits are available for distribution at the locations and among the appropriate age group of the affected women and girls.
- Ensure waste management systems are functional for garbage, solid waste and disposables at different levels before and during the pandemic.
Key Activities in COVID-19 response:
- Training of Community Health Workers on COVID-19 Infection Preparedness and Care (IPC)
- Sensitization of community-level development structures to promote Good Hygiene Behavior
- Printing and Distribution of promotional Material for Handwashing with Water and Soap
- Installation of Handwashing Stations at Port of Entries (using existing structures on sites)
- Installation of Handwashing Stations at Public Spaces (using existing structures on sites) and temporal provision of tanks
- National Risk Communication Campaign on Hygiene Behaviour Change and COVID-19 prevention
DR Congo: Facilitating access to drinking water for all
To combat COVID-19 crisis, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has issued a decree for the provision of free water in the capital city of Kinshasa until June 2020. The objective is to reinforce hygiene measures with regular handwashing. Not all districts in the city are connected to the public water distribution network and these districts are generally inhabited by the most vulnerable populations. Therefore, the Congolese government has planned tanker trucks to supply drinking water to these neighbourhoods.
A campaign to disinfect public places has also been launched by the government with the support of the private sector in the country.
Creating awareness and training on simple and effective methods of water treatment and hygiene is of paramount importance to stop the spread of COVID-19. The government is, therefore, broadcasting messages through radio, television and social networks to reinforce the messaging around hygiene and regular hand washing with soap or an alcohol-based solution to reduce the risk of contamination. To reach out to all the communities, this messaging is also be reinforced by signs, banners, and posters.
Sudan: WASH Sector response to the COVID-19 outbreak
In order to enhance the preparedness for COVID-19 outbreak, the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in Sudan has prepared and distributed Operational Guidance for WASH personnel/partners in the country. There are eight COVID-19 Strategic Plan and Response Pillars (SPRP):
- Country-level coordination, planning and monitoring: The WASH practitioners (WPs) are engaging with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and WHO to access a country-specific operational plan and to understand their roles and responsibilities. This will be a multisectoral plan and response, which will require engagement with other sectors apart from WASH and Health, such as WASH in schools - Education, Protection, etc. The WPs are expected to contribute to fill the prevailing gaps in accordance with their capacity and inform the sector coordinators, FMOH and WHO on how they are going to contribute.
- Risk Communication and Community Engagement: WPs are advised to request/refer to UNICEF, the Federal Ministry of Health and WHO on local messages, specifically targeting key stakeholders and at-risk groups. Additionally, WPs are also advised to refer to the Infection Prevention and Control guidance for home and community care providers. This would support WPs:
a) to disseminate messages and materials in local languages and adapt to the relevant communication channels
b) to engage with existing community-based networks, media, local NGOs, schools, local governments and other sectors such, education and business using a consistent mechanism of communication
c) to establish large scale community engagement for social and behaviour change approaches to ensure preventive community and individual health and hygiene practices in line with the national public health containment recommendations
- Surveillance, rapid response teams and case investigation: WPs will refer to weekly epidemiological reports disseminated by the Health authorities and WHO. The hygienists in WPs can be part of contact tracing and rapid response team on request by Health practitioners.
- Point of entry (PoE)
a) WPs can contribute to the training of WASH part of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) for the PoE staff.
b) WPs can support in assessment, rehabilitation or installation of new WASH facilities at POE
c) WPs can be part of implementing hygiene promotion measures, ensuring supplies, print and distribute Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials to travellers.
d) Contribute to safe disposal of solid and liquid wastes, disinfecting surfaces and ambulances
- National laboratories: WPs to support only if requested by the Federal Ministry of Health/State Ministry of Health/Health Sector
- Infection Prevention and Control
a) WPs to support reviewing WASH-related IPC guidance and messages for home and community care providers in local languages and adopt relevant communication channels
b) In consultation with FMOH, WHO and UNICEF, WPs to be part of the training to address any skills and performance deficits and engage trained staff with technical expertise to implement IPC activities, prioritizing based on risk assessment and local care-seeking patterns
c) WPs to support access to water and sanitation in PoEs, Isolation and treatment centres, if requested by Health Sector
d) In consultation with Federal Ministry of Health, WPs to help in monitoring of IPC WASH implementation in selected healthcare facilities and public spaces using the Infection Prevention and Control Assessment Framework, the Hand Hygiene Self-Assessment Framework and hand hygiene compliance observation tools and the WASH Facilities Improvement Tool.
- Case management: Only, if requested by the Federal Ministry of Health/Health sector
- Operational support and logistics
a) Review supply chain control and management system (stockpiling, storage, security, transportation and distribution arrangements) for Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) WASH and other essential supplies. Procurement of supplies to be coordinated with UNICEF, WHO, FMOH and SMOH to avoid duplication
b) If required, HR, Technical assistance (deployment of hygienists, trainers, other WASH technicians), coordination, monitoring IPC and WASH implementation in selected healthcare facilities and public spaces, including schools,will need human, material and financial resources
Central African Republic:WASH Sector active in COVID-19 response
At the national level, the response to COVID-19 is coordinated by the Ministry of Health and Population, specifically through the Operational Center for Public Health Emergencies (COUSP). The WASH sector is actively participating in the COVID-19 preparation and response plan- as the sector is considered life-saving and 'essential'.
Due to the dry season, there are water supply problems, especially in the capital city- Bangui. The Ministry of Hydraulics has defined strategies to reinforce the water supply in the city while putting in place measures to avoid contamination at the point of drawing by the users (i.e. handwashing with chlorinated water).
Here are the COVID-19 prevention messages posted everywhere and broadcasted on radio and television:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap, at least for 20 seconds especially after going to the toilet and during food preparation or with hydroalcoholic liquid. Use an alcohol-based disinfectant, if you do not have access to water and soap
- Avoid touching the eyes and mouth without first washing your hands
- When you sneeze or cough: Cough or sneeze in a tissue or the crook of your arms- Immediately throw the papers in a trash can and then wash your hands
- Regularly clean the frequently touched surfaces (such as toys, toilets, telephones, remote controls, bedside tables, door handles, electronic devices) with ordinary household cleaners or diluted bleach
- Respect the distance of 1 meter between people in public places
- If you suffer from shortness of breath or have a temperature exceeding 38 degrees, call 1212
Bangladesh: Focus on ultra-poor in COVID-19 activities
SWA Civil Society partner- Water.org has planned the following activities for COVID-19 response in Bangladesh:
- One of the micro financial partners of Water.org in Bangladesh has offered the government a 50-bed hospital having an Intensive Care Unit and dialysis facility. This would be dedicated to the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Around 10,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) have been given to health professionals and 5,000 PPE to volunteers as well as alcohol-based hand rub.
- Awareness campaign currently underway with the support of local partners through leaflet distribution on COVID-19 prevention
- Amid the difficult situation, with the support of local partners, there are also plans to distribute food for 30,000 ultra-poor across the country
LAC: What Water Operators are doing to contain COVID-19
In the context of COVID-19, access to potable water and sanitation is essential. Water Operators from Latin America (WOP-LAC) have come out with an action plan to guarantee the service to the population as well as take required measures to keep staff safe.
The action plan lists measures taken by 15 operators from 8 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Uruguay). The aim is to provide an overview of how companies (large, medium and small) are acting to guarantee service in their respective countries, where they are currently working under conditions of recommended or mandatory isolation, as stipulated by the authorities. This action plan intends to share experiences and different approaches at this exceptional time.
Malawi: WASH Cluster preparedness on COVID-19
The WASH cluster in Malawi, with the guidance from the Department of Disaster Management, has prepared a cluster response plan for COVID-19 that will cover the following activities:
- Water trucking to severely affected areas to ensure continuous availability of clean water
- Blanket distribution of WASH supplies (such as buckets, soap, chlorine) in hot spot areas
- Using various media platforms to launch a massive dissemination campaign on handwashing and COVID-19 prevention messages to communities around isolation centres– Emergency Treatment Centre (ETCs).
- Installation and operation of communal handwashing stations in hot spot areas
- Rehabilitation of existing water supply systems in affected areas
- Construction of communal solar-powered water systems in hot spot areas
The WASH cluster will be holding weekly meetings at the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development to take stock of the situation.
Colombia: Strengthening water sector to combat health emergency
The Colombian Government is taking measures to support water sector in order to combat health emergency due to COVID-19. These initiatives will ensure access and continuity of water services for Colombian households and also frequent cleaning and disinfection of public places. The following measures have been put in place:
- Free reconnection of the water service to the families that had it suspended for non-payment: Through the Commission for the Regulation of Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation, water and sewerage service providers throughout the country will immediately reconnect, free of charge, those users who were suspended for non-payment. This will guarantee service to families during the sanitary emergency. The measure will benefit more than 200,000 families throughout the country.
- Freeze the increase in water rates: No provider in the country may apply increases in water and sewage rates. Colombia's tariff framework establishes that operators may increase the rate for two factors: (a) an increase in the price level and (b) a justified increase in operating costs. With this measure, regardless of changes in these variables, the tariff will remain the same.
- Suspension of tariffs for water treatment inputs: On average, chemical treatment represents 5% of the cost of drinking water production and many of these are imported inputs. During the time of the health emergency, the collection of tariffs for water treatment inputs will be suspended, which will make it possible to continue operating the systems.
- Disinfection of critical points: In cities with more than 5,000 subscribers, disinfection of critical points will be carried out at least once a week, following an agreement between companies and municipalities, for the duration of the health emergency. The municipalities, in mutual agreement with the operators, will define the points to be prioritized in which there is a significant influx of people and which may have high exposure to contagion.
Government is aiming to adopt these actions immediately and by May 30 all the entities that make up the sector, the municipal governments and the companies that provide public services. The latter, in turn, will ensure active and updated Emergency and Contingency Plans. With these measures, focused on citizens, the Colombian Government is expecting to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensuring that people can stay in their homes with access to drinking water.
Nigeria: Presidential Task Force for COVID-19 response
Nigeria has set up a Presidential Task Force in response to COVID-19, with membership across frontline ministries and agencies in combating the pandemic. To create public awareness, the mass sensitization campaign has been launched through electronic, print and social media platforms.
The State Governments are ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene service delivery to support handwashing with soap as prevention to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Ethiopia:Communicating via One WASH National Program on COVID-19
To emphasize handwashing as the first line of defence against COVID-19, the government of Ethiopia has initiated a campaign led by Prime Minister in which all ministers and regional government presidents are participating.
Ethiopia is using One WASH National Program to communicate with all stakeholders, requesting them to get involved and join the collective efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency WASH Committee in the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity is looking for measures to get more financing for fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.
South Africa: WASH is the backbone for addressing COVID-19
The South African government has put water, sanitation and hygiene as key to addressing COVID-19 pandemic. Short term plans are being developed to ensure hygiene and water quality (including proper water storage) particularly in informal settlements and densely populated areas to limit the spread of this pandemic. The National Treasury has allocated R305 million for the COVID-19 response, especially for water delivery and services in informal settlements.
In terms of the institutional arrangement, the COVID-19 COMMAND CENTRE at the Department of Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements (DWS HS) is acting as the nerve centre for pandemic response in the country. The Water Research Commission, Council for Scientific Industrial Research Council (CSIR), South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and municipalities are part of this Command Centre team. This governance arrangement is helping to ensure proper coordination as regular updates are provided to the minister who in turn reports to the head of the state. The government is also planning to provide innovative sanitation solutions under the leadership of the Water Research Commission.
I congratulate our partner #SouthAfrica, for its short term plan to ensure #hygiene & #water quality & proper water storage to reduce the spread of the virus due to congestion, particularly in informal settlements and densely populated areas. https://t.co/E0K9Xhip1m— Catarina de Albuquerque (@CatarinadeAlbuq) April 2, 2020