The Stream, March 24, 2020: Over Half of Global Population Lacks Proper Sanitation, Heightening Coronavirus Risk, UN Warns

The Global Rundown

The United Nations warns that more than half the global population lacks access to safely-managed sanitation, heightening coronavirus risks. UNICEF decries water cuts in Syria as the country reports its first coronavirus case. Mexican residents vote to halt development of a controversial brewery near the U.S. border, which activists fear could deplete local water supplies. Activists say restoration of water service to disconnected homes in Detroit, Michigan, is moving too slowly. Experts hope the coronavirus will be a catalyst for improved water supplies in African nations. 

“In the water sector we always say ‘Don’t waste a good crisis.’ Coronavirus has already highlighted that safe water and sanitation is essential to protecting human life during all infectious disease outbreaks.” —Inga Jacobs-Mata, the South African representative from the non-profit research group International Water Management Institute (IWMI). As fears mount about the spread of coronavirus in water-scarce parts of Africa, experts are urging countries to take this opportunity to invest in much-needed water and sanitation infrastructure. Reuters

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By The Numbers

76 percent Proportion of local residents in Mexicali, Mexico, who voted to halt construction on a $1 billion brewery owned by U.S.-based Constellation Brands Inc. Activists and locals have expressed concern that the brewery, which was permitted without the public’s consent, could be detrimental to local water supplies, a claim which Constellation denies. Reuters

In context: HotSpots H2O: Public to Decide Fate of Contested Brewery in Northern Mexico

434 Households in Detroit, Michigan, where water has been restored in recent weeks. For the duration of the crisis, the city is offering an affordable program for disconnected homes to regain water service. Activists say water restoration is still moving too slowly, however, and urge Governor Gretchen Whitmer to accelerate the process. Michigan Radio 

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

Science, Studies, and Reports

The United Nations, as part of their World Water Day reporting, noted that poor water infrastructure across the globe puts billions at higher risk for the coronavirus. Experts estimate that more than half of the world’s population lacks access to adequate sanitation services, and three-quarters of homes in developing countries have no access to handwashing facilities. The Guardian

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

On the Radar

Water supply at the Allouk water station in Syria, which serves 460,000 people, has experienced several interruptions in the past week, and was cut off again as of Monday. UNICEF and other aid groups in the northeastern part of the country are warning that the disruptions could intensify coronavirus risk in the war-torn area. UN News

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