CDC Foundation Works With Global Partners To Continue Access to Safe Water During Coronavirus

It’s a message you’ve heard repeatedly during the coronavirus pandemic: wash your hands. Here in the United States drinking water is generally safe due to government regulations and maintenance of sanitation systems, but what about countries that lack access to clean and safe water?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.5 billion people live in places without sewers and other sanitation systems. This can have serious public health consequences, as contaminated water kills more than 2,000 children each day, many of them in rural parts of Africa and Asia.

The CDC Foundation, in partnership with CDC and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation have been working to provide greater access to safe drinking water through the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program. With a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, WASH has partnered with several nongovernment organizations and local health offices to provide key resources to communities in need. This work has included approximately 274 healthcare facilities across 14 districts in six countries, serving more than two million people.

The program addresses critical gaps in the availability of WASH services, which are essential for keeping both healthcare workers and their patients safe from infectious diseases in healthcare facilities. The simple act of handwashing with soap is key to stop the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

“Good hygiene practices, along with good waste management and general cleaning in health care facilities can save lives,” said Victoria Trinies, field coordinator for the WASH program. The coronavirus pandemic has created a greater need for access to clean water.

“The pandemic has brought more urgency for the work we are doing,” said Trinies. “Ensuring that healthcare facilities have access to water and hygiene supplies is more critical than ever, and our partners are often working to respond to these needs while being constrained by travel limitations because many governments have issued lockdowns or shelter-in-place orders.”

Since the pandemic started the CDC Foundation has worked with the Hilton Foundation to adapt to the changing needs presented by COVID-19, including providing help like technical assistance to partners for rapid assessments of WASH in health care facilities to assist with COVID-19 prevention and preparedness interventions.

You can learn more about the WASH program here.

Candace Wheeler is a communications officer for the CDC Foundation.