skip to main content

World Water Day: Imagine if you couldn’t even wash your hands right now

21 March 2020

As COVID-19 hits countries across the world, over half the world’s population lack safe sanitation.

Six year old Elen washes her hands at a water tank provided to improve hygiene to halt the spread of ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire

Washing your hands. It’s something we do many times every day. Now we’re all doing it even more regularly as COVID-19 spreads.

But what if you didn’t have access to water? If you had no running water in your home? If you had to travel miles every day to collect unsafe dirty water for your family? If you’d never even heard of hand sanitiser?

This week we mark World Water Day. This is at a time when the world needs safe sanitation more than ever. Yet the global statistics on water and sanitation are shocking:

  • Over half of the global population, 4.2 billion people, lack safe sanitation.
  • 2 out of 5 people, 3 billion people, around the world lack basic handwashing facilities at home.
  • More than 800 children under five years of age die every single day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
  • Women and girls are responsible for water collection in eight out of ten households with no running water.
  • Washing hands is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The entire world is facing the COVID-19 crisis together. Yet those least able to fight COVID-19 are the poorest countries. They are going to need extra assistance to contain the virus. Many of these countries have poorly functioning health systems that struggle to cope with mass outbreaks.

Poverty makes people more vulnerable to the virus. If you are living through a drought in somewhere like Malawi or Kenya, you may only be eating once a day. Your immune system is going to be compromised.

In conflict-affected countries, people are often living together in very crowded camps. Diseases and viruses spread easily. People living in camps already lack access to decent health services.

At present, COVID-19 has been detected in twelve of the countries Trócaire works in. We have begun planning with our local partner organisations on the ground to see how we can help prevent the virus spreading. This will mean funding public health messages and providing water and soap.

Finding hope : tackling the spread of ebola

In the current crisis, we are all understandably worried. These are uncertain times and it is hard to know what the coming months are going to look like. In the work that Trócaire does around the world, too often we see the damage that disease can wreak.

Yet we can still find hope in the successes we have had. Successes such as tackling recent outbreaks of ebola in West Africa and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In West Africa in 2014 and 2015, our teams in Sierra Leone remained working throughout that crisis. We delivered vital services to affected communities.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have responded to the ebola outbreak of the last 18 months. We have reached hundreds of thousands of people with water tanks, latrines, water pumps, and chemical treatments to provide safe water to people.

Providing sanitation infrastructure, working with leaders, training doctors, and combating misinformation through community education has made a huge difference. Lives have been saved and the outbreak has been contained. Last week saw the last affected patient discharged from care, and there is now hope that the ebola outbreak is coming to a close.

Children at a school in Bahaha village in DR Congo which has received a large water tank to improve hygiene, which helps prevent the spread of ebola.  Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire

Thousands have been provided with hand-washing stations in the DR Congo to prevent Ebola. Here Twal Umande (48) and Bahati Imulali (20) wash their hands. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire

At present, we are currently mid-way through our Lenten Appeal. This campaign is vital for our work to contain virus outbreaks like COVID-19 and ebola. The donations received across Ireland during Lent fund all of our work, helping vulnerable people around the world throughout the year.

We have recently cancelled all of our outreach activities. This is the responsible thing to do during the current crisis, but it means we really need your support more than ever.

You can donate online or by phoning:
1850 408 408 (Republic of Ireland)
0800 912 1200 (Northern Ireland).

Donate Today