COVID19 incidence across the globe is sending shivers down the spine of all and sundry, irrespective of your country, tribe, religion or class. Economies are collapsing and healthcare centres overstretched in most countries with high incidence. On the other hand, social distancing and accepting the virtual world (working from home) as a new norm, is having a debilitating effect on the psychology (mental health) of several individuals. It’s indeed a very difficult time, globally.

Handwashing has been recommended as one of the effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus. While this may come as a temporal relief for some people that can readily access water, for many others facing water poverty, it’s another dilemma to either use the little available water they can access for handwashing or drinking.

In lieu of the above scenario, this is the right time for heightened discussion and advocacy on realizing human rights to water. It’s indeed a pressing issue at this moment, as some of the people in rural areas faced with severe water poverty are quick to reiterate that they don’t even have enough water to drink and now they have to fetch from the little they have to wash hands, five or more times a day. 

Reflecting on my experience at a human-rights-to-water workshop organized by Hope Spring Water, a participant asked if she could use her saliva for handwashing, because she goes through a lot of stress to get access to the little water for drinking, and even that is not enough. 

Imagine making a decision on whether to wash your hands or quench a thirst with the little water you could access.

It’s been reiterated by respected authorities that Africa should prepare for the worst. Providing access to safe water for millions of people across the continent is one of the requisite and cogent preparation needed in Africa and other climes where access to safe water is a mirage.

We cannot afford to play down on the issue of realizing human rights to water at this moment. Rather, it’s hightime we called on relevant stakeholders and governments to act swiftly in making water accessible to the citizens. Let us also continue to emphasize on the link between COVID-19 and practical realization of human rights to water.

Temple is a WASH Advocate, passionate about sustainable development of the global WASH sector.

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