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UNICEF Distributes Hygiene, Recreational Kits to Lao Children/in Water News/by Circle Blue
In an effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, UNICEF and government partners distributed hygiene and recreational kits to more than 1,000 children in residential care institutions and shelters in Laos last week. The kits included soap, bleach, detergent as well as painting tools.
In many rural and poorer communities in Laos, residents do not have access to improved water supply and sanitation. Less than half of primary schools and only a quarter of health facilities have safe drinking water and sanitation, according to the World Bank. 40 percent of the rural Lao population lack access to clean drinking water.
“It is critical to ensure that our support reaches these vulnerable children,” said Pia Britto, UNICEF adviser on early childhood development. “Providing them with access to hygiene and psychosocial services can make a big difference in their lives.”
The kits will be given to seven residential care facilities in six provinces. Supplies will also go to two civil society organizations and two Lao Women’s Union Protection Centers. The country has a total of 22 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Study Highlights Compound Effect of Hurricanes and Covid-19/in Water News/by Circle Blue
Hurricane evacuations could increase the health risks of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, according to a Columbia University study.
The study found that storms rated as a Category 3 or higher could increase Covid-19 infections by thousands of cases if evacuations are not well managed.
Researchers from the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the Mailman School of Public Health traced the routes of those evacuated in southeastern Florida during Hurricane Irma in 2017. They used the resulting map to inform a hypothetical scenario: a Category 3 storm striking the same region today.
If evacuees are sent to areas with high Covid-19 rates, there will be more new cases compared to sending people to areas with low rates. The study, which is still undergoing peer review before publication, concludes that by directing evacuees to areas with a low amount of Covid-19 cases, new infections could be minimized.
The study comes as the country enters peak Atlantic hurricane season. On Thursday, Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, hit Louisiana and eastern Texas. Wind gusts reached 120 mph and more than 1.5 million people left their homes.
Pacific Region Prepares for Covid-19 with Water, Nutrition, Sustainability Projects/in Water News/by Circle Blue
The Pacific Community and European Union began three new projects today aimed to tackle the impacts of Covid-19 and assist long-term recovery in the Pacific region.
The projects will provide immediate support for food and nutrition security across 12 Pacific countries, improve sustainable energy security for the Federated States of Micronesia, and increase access to clean and safe drinking water in the Republic of Kiribati through public sector services. Kiribati, an island nation home to 7,000 people, often experiences severe droughts due to lack of rainfall. The project aims to manage the island’s groundwater and increase access to safe, sustainable water for the community.
The Republic of Kiribati nor the Federated States of Micronesia have any confirmed cases of Covid-19 yet. Both countries implemented travel restrictions and precautions to keep the virus away from their borders.
“It is a great achievement that our country is still Covid free,” said David Teaabo, Kiribati high commissioner to Fiji. “However we remain to be diligent in how we prepare and respond to Covid-19 should it ever reach our shores.”
New Funding for Sudan Supports Climate-Resilient Food and Water Security/in Water News/by Circle Blue
The Green Climate Fund, along with the United Nations Development Program, signed a $25.6 million grant with the government of Sudan to promote food and water security in the country. The project is expected to support 1.2 million farmers and nomadic herders directly and 2.5 million people indirectly.
“Addressing the impact of climate change is a collective responsibility,” said Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. “This [project] will help us minimize the impact of Covid-19, and put our people and planet first.”
Climate change, erratic rainfall, and higher temperatures are affecting the country’s arid and semi-arid drylands, where 70 percent of the Sudanese population lives. Intermittent rainfall has lengthened droughts and increased poverty levels. The project aims to combat these issues, which are compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and local conflicts over land and water.
One objective is to improve access to water by constructing wells, small-scale irrigation, sand dams, and water storage tanks. Food security is another. It will be accomplished by planting trees that protect cultivated land from dust storms, guiding women-led farms, and making available more varieties of seeds.
At Greek Refugee Camp, Women’s Hygiene Products are Scarce/in Water News/by Circle Blue
Menstrual hygiene and sanitizing products are scarce at the large Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, according to the Women’s Media Center.
Since the start of the pandemic, the two main women’s hygiene providers at the camp have had to switch focus to other Covid-19 essential services. Distribution of sanitary pads has almost completely ended, while projects that provide showers for residents have also been stopped.
“Most remaining service providers who are doing Covid-19 relief work are focusing on basic hygiene related to the virus,” said Ambre Macdougald, a coordinator for the Greek nonprofit Becky’s Bathhouse. “And women’s hygiene needs are still largely ignored.”
Hundreds of people at Moria share a water tap, according to Oxfam. There is one toilet for every 160 people, and 500 people to a shower. The temporary holding camp was originally a place for 3,000 refugees, yet with new arrivals every day and a lack of a relocation plan, the number of people at the camp soared to more than 20,000 at the beginning of the summer. The camp’s population is now down to about 15,000.
A coordinated effort between NGOs and the International Rescue Committee provided 1,800 women and girls with hygiene products in July. Yet, the distributions are hardly enough.
“Under these conditions, a woman’s ability to manage her period in a dignified manner is impossible,” a humanitarian campaigns specialist Aanjalie Collure said.
Kenyan Youth-led Groups Take Lead on Covid-19 Prevention/in Water News/by Circle Blue
Youth-led organizations in Kenya are working to stop the spread of Covid-19 in informal settlements by building handwashing stations, according to UN-Habitat.
With support from UN-Habitat and other government, non-profit, and private partners, there have been an estimated 1.5 million hands washed since the work began 5 months ago. The “One Stop Centers” started with a youth-group at a Nairobi informal settlement and by April had spread to 34 youth-led organizations throughout the country.
“[The youth] said something needed to be done immediately to stop Covid-19 in informal settlements, and we have an idea on what we can do,” UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif said. “Five months later we see the results.”
A symposium organized by the Government of Turkey, Habitat Norway, and others celebrated the work and success of the youth-led organizations. The event focused in part on the ability of local communities and local government to take action and implement solutions during the pandemic.
Report: When Reopening Schools, Don’t Forget About Lead/in Water News/by Circle Blue
The Environmental Working Group reported this week that schools may want to test their water for lead and bacteria before reopening this fall. Many school buildings shut down in the spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and water has sat in pipes for months. This stagnant water, if not flushed, could prove a health risk for children and staff.
The report emphasized that a single test may not reveal the extent of the problem. If plumbing systems are not brought back online properly, it could take several months of regular water use to reduce dangerous levels of lead. Currently, only 15 states and the District of Columbia test their school’s water for contamination. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system, and contribute to developmental and learning problems.
In order to clear schools of lead contamination, the Environmental Science, Policy and Research Institute noted that there must be a coordinated effort to flush building plumbing and fixtures, replacing stagnant water with fresh supplies.
WHO, UNICEF Report Highlights Need for WASH as Schools Reopen/in Water News/by Circle Blue
The World Health Organization released a report this week emphasizing the need for hygiene, sanitation, and handwashing facilities in schools around the world. As children head back to the classroom this fall, access to these WASH services is an important step for children’s safety.
The report, published in collaboration with UNICEF, highlighted that 43 percent of schools did not have basic handwashing amenities in 2019. An estimated 818 million children are at increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and other diseases due to a lack of hygiene and sanitation in the classroom. The report also noted that while school closures impede learning, countries must seek a balance between public health and education.
“We must prioritize children’s learning,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, said in a press release. This means making sure that schools are safe to reopen — including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water, and safe sanitation.”
UNICEF published a report earlier this year laying out guidelines for reopening schools. Those guidelines include policy reform, financing requirements, and reaching out to those who are marginalized.
Niger Receives Handwashing Stations From UNICEF to Curb Covid-19/in Water News/by Circle Blue
Niger’s Ministry of Water and Sanitation received four new vehicles and 362 handwashing stations from the United Nations Children’s Fund this week. The move is part of an effort to extend water and sanitation services to all of the country’s residents.
The new handwashing devices will be installed in 54 facilities, 71 public places, and 85 schools in Niamey, the capital.
Sanitation is limited in Niger. Only 13 percent of the population has access to basic sanitation services and just over half have clean drinking water. A government initiative, supported by UNICEF and funded by British Government, expects to address these limitations.
Since 2019, the program has succeeded in reaching five more municipalities in the regions of Maradi and Tahoua, ending open defecation and enabling over 700,00 people access to healthy sanitation. More recetly, the program has acted as a part of the global Covid-19 response.
Lack of Clean Water, Services Endanger Inmates in Nicaragua/in Water News/by Circle Blue
Prisons in Nicaragua are massive spreading grounds for Covid-19, according to Amnesty International. While the Ortega administration downplays the pandemic, a lack of safe drinking water and medical services, along with constant overcrowding, have endangered the lives of inmates across the country, the nonprofit group says.
The Jorge Navarro prison complex or “El Modelo,” the largest and oldest prison in Nicaragua, does not provide safe drinking water to those detained, according to Amnesty International’s report that provides details about life inside the prison. Inmates who do not have family members to bring clean water are limited to what the prison provides for them. Each inmate is given a single bucket of water for washing, cooking, and drinking. At the end of the week, the inmates must wash their cells with the same water.
“I’m worried that he will get ill and they won’t tell me,” the partner of one inmate said to Amnesty International. “I’m worried about the issue of hygiene, the lack of space, the food rationing, and the lack of medical attention, which he has not received although we have requested it.”
Along with the spread of Covid-19, drinking non-potable water can lead to a cascade of other health concerns and disease. “La Modelo” houses twice the total capacity of the prison, if not more. Many inmates are political prisoners as well.