The Stream, April 7, 2020: Potential Water Shutoffs Loom for Americans Unemployed During Coronavirus

The Global Rundown

Millions of Americans risk water shutoffs due to non-payment as coronavirus-related unemployment rises. Tropical Cyclone Harold slams into the Pacific Island of Vanuatu with wind speeds equal to a Category 4 hurricane. Reservoirs and rivers run dry in Chile after more than a year of meager rainfall. Water and sewage infrastructure in Africa’s slums comes under scrutiny as the coronavirus spreads. Millions of people across Latin America struggle with water shortages and coronavirus prevention. 

“Since they announced the pandemic (in Haiti two weeks ago), the tap has had water twice. But we can spend weeks without water.” –Mimose Pierre Raymond, a resident of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in reference to water shortages in the country. Most homes in Haiti have no piped water, leaving many residents without a steady supply of water for handwashing. Other nations across Latin America are dealing with similar water shortages. In response, some governments are setting up temporary hand washing stations, or expediting water infrastructure projects. Reuters

In context: ‘This Is the Time to Act Collectively’: Anticipating Coronavirus Spread, Groups Seek to Scale Up Handwashing and Hygiene Efforts.

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By The Numbers

10 million U.S. citizens who filed for unemployment benefits in the second half of March due to coronavirus layoffs. Officials warn that millions of unemployed Americans could face water disconnection due to nonpayment, despite shutoff moratoriums implemented in many cities. Currently, about 40 percent of the U.S. population is reliant on water utilities that have not changed their shutoff policies amid the crisis. The Guardian

In context: As Cities Suspend Shutoffs, Water Access and Hygiene at Front of Coronavirus Response

1.5 million People in Chile who are reliant on water supplies from tankers due to dry conditions in the country. In 2019, parts of Chile recorded rainfall levels that were nearly 80 percent below previous record lows, leaving much of the country in drought. Like many drought-stricken locations across the globe, the water shortages are being acutely felt amid the outbreak of Covid-19.

Science, Studies, and Reports

Several of Africa’s megacities are among the fastest-growing population centers in the world, and the breakneck urbanization has led to many large slums with little or no water and sewage infrastructure. Experts estimate that only about half of Africa’s urban residents have reliable access to clean water, a growing concern as Covid-19 spreads across the continent. Reuters

On the Radar

Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall on the Pacific Island of Vanuatu late Sunday evening with wind speeds equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. Heavy rainfall has already battered the island, and another 300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain is forecast over the next several days. Al Jazeera


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