74 million people in Arab region do not have access to hand-washing facilities: UN report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 16, 2020

Representative image

The overall water demand in the region is set to increase by four million to five million cubic metres

About 74 million people in the Arab region lack access to basic hand-washing facilities according to a recent report on the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

“While it has been agreed worldwide that handwashing with soap and water is the best prevention against Covid-19 contagion, this simple act proves to be difficult in a region where 74 million people lack access to a basic handwashing facility,” the report said.

The 74 million people include 31 people in Sudan, over 14 million in Yemen and 9.9 million in Egypt.

The overall water demand in the region is set to increase by four million to five million cubic metres owing to primarily handwashing apart from basic tasks such as laundry, cleaning and food washing demands. However, the situation will be “further exacerbated” as 10 out of 22 Arab countries have an insufficient piped water supply as per the report.

According to the report, approximately 87 million people in the Arab region also do not have access to a better source of drinking water within their homes. This poses a greater risk for the population as people are required to go to a water collection source. Women and girls in the villages, who regularly perform the task of water-collection, are at a greater risk amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The threat is larger for refugees and people living in conflict areas or areas that are under occupation. For instance, only 1 in 10 households have access to clean water in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. An estimated 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons live in the region who are also at a greater risk of contracting Covid-19 due to lack of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services.

“It is urgent to ensure access to clean water and sanitation services to everyone everywhere, at no cost for those who cannot afford it, in order to avoid further spread of the coronavirus,” said ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti.

Overall, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the globe crossed the two million mark on Wednesday.

Published on April 16, 2020

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