The United Nations (UN) Information Centre warned that without the provision of continuous access to sufficient water to populations living in the most vulnerable conditions, the global fight against the pandemic has little chance of success.
About 2.2-billion people worldwide have no access to safe water services, rendering the main measure to prevent contagion – personal hygiene and washing hands with soap and clean water – unavailable.
“People living in informal settlements, those who are homeless, rural populations, women, children, older persons, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and all other groups vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic need to have continuous access to sufficient and affordable water,” the UN said in a statement, citing the collective views of several UN experts.
“We call on governments to immediately prohibit water cuts to those who cannot pay water bills. It is also essential that they provide water free of cost for the duration of the crisis to people in poverty and those affected by the upcoming economic hardship. Public and private service providers must be enforced to comply with these fundamental measures,” the statement said.
The UN expressed concerns that economically vulnerable people will become victims of a vicious cycle.
“Limited access to water makes them more likely to get infected. Infection leads to illness and isolation measures, making it difficult for people without social security to continue earning a living.”
Governments need to implement measures to break this cycle.
However, the UN experts welcomed the measures announced by some governments to mitigate the impact of the loss of jobs likely to result from the pandemic and called for policies to ensure continuous access to water and sanitation.
“Only this will allow them to comply with the recommendations of health institutions to keep strict hygiene measures,” they noted.
“Throughout our mandates, we keep insisting on the need to ensure that no one is left behind. Governments must pay special attention to marginalised groups who are rarely at the centre of public policies related to water and sanitation. In relation to Covid-19, this message is even more critical,” the UN concluded.