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The poorest and most marginalized areas worldwide suffer both from the increase in infections and from the difficulties of obtaining drinking water.
Wash your hands or drink? It is a question that millions of people in the world ask each day in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. While in the so-called first world the answer seems very clear, the figures released by UNICEF and some NGOs in places such as Syria, Yemen, parts of Brazil or Africa fuel a controversy over the management of a resource as basic as it is vital.
Slums, refugee camps or sporadic settlements are the epicenter of a dichotomy in which water is the common denominator. It is as difficult to obtain for daily survival as it is difficult to use it to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Gregory Bulit, head of the UNICEF water and sanitation team, outlines that it is difficult without extensive research to link lack of water to the spread of the virus, but stresses that the poor conditions in some places are more conducive to the spread of the pandemic . “What we know is that, without water, the risk increases,” he added in an interview with the AP.
Regions such as the Arab, with more than 74 million people without access to a basic water facility to wash their hands, draw an idea of the difficult situation. In fact, the WaterAid charitable group goes further and estimates that for 3,000 million people (from Brazil, passing through Yemen and ending in some areas of Syria) washing hands with soap and water is a luxury available to very few.
The Syrian or Yemeni conflicts or the vulnerability of indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest are just a few examples that demonstrate the vulnerability of groups such as refugees or forcibly displaced persons who can hardly obtain access to a non-potable water well or a truck tank, where what matters almost least is the safety distance or transmission of the covid-19.
In Africa, more than half of the 1.3 billion people on the continent must leave their homes to obtain water, according to the Afrobarometer research group. But once they arrive at the place of supply, the agglomeration around a tap turns from being a source of help to a source of infection.
“They are potentially dangerous breeding grounds for the virus,” says Maxwell Samaila, program manager for the aid group Mercy Corps in Nigeria, for the AP. An opinion shared in the same article by Bram Riems, an Action Against Hunger water, sanitation and hygiene adviser, stating that “there are 200 people who tap the tap one after another.”