Water and Saniter
319 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to a hygienic water point, a figure which equates to 48% of Africa’s population (WHO). Research by WHO and UNICEF demonstrated that rural areas suffer the most. They found that 29% of rural health facilities had no water services in 2016 and 42% of rural schools are without water services (2018).
The people most affected by water scarcity also tend to be vulnerable members of society in other ways; they suffer from limited funds, poor nutrition, life-threatening communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDs and TB.
The main precautionary measures advised by WHO in the face of COVID-19 are:
- Frequent and comprehensive hand-washing practices
- Social distancing
Both of these are made difficult by a lack of household access to water, and a dependency on communal taps. What are we doing about it? The Africa Foundation regional teams are perfectly positioned to recognise critical needs and ways in which we can provide immediate assistance.
A number of broken boreholes have been identified, which with repairs will improve access to water in clinics, communities and centres supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) and providing care to the sick and elderly in their homes – known as Home-Based-Care Centres (HBCs).
Sanitizers and surface cleaners are being sourced to provide bulk supplies to all OVC / HBC centres in our communities – were children no longer at school go for food and support – and from where volunteers are going to tend to the ill in their homes.
The most vulnerable households are known, and on a register to receive a Hippo Roller. These 90-litre barrels which can roll over ground enable the easy transport and storage of large volumes of water, reducing the burden and frequency of collecting water from a communal point.
Potential sites for new boreholes are a priority, in order to increase the number of sites at which water can be collected.
These are ambitious goals and require fast action if they are to create a real impact and protect the least resilient communities from the spread of COVID-19.
The strategy of #flatten the curve aims to slow down infection rates so as not to over burden the healthcare system.
In many rural African communities, healthcare facilities are already woefully under-resourced and under-capacitated to effectively manage an outbreak of COVID-19.
Many rural clinics do not even have a direct water supply. They are dependent on municipality deliveries of water in tanks, or their own collection of water from community taps.
Most rural clinics have a shortage of equipment and medical supplies, and are resourced to deal with relatively low patient volumes, and relatively uncomplicated complaints. Referral for more complex cases is to District hospitals often over 20km away, accessible only by irregular public transport services.
In short, the clinics accessed by the 73 communities Africa Foundation supports are not equipped to respond to COVID-19.
What are we doing about it?
As a rule Africa Foundation does not support the running and maintenance requirements of clinics / schools / HBC centres – because this creates a dependency that we cannot guarantee is sustainable. Our work is done in complete partnership with the relevant Government departments who take responsibility for the staffing and resourcing of these facilities.
We are in unprecedented times, and our close relationships with the Government departments means that, in times of need, we pull together to do what is required for the benefit of the communities that we serve. As hard as the Governments will try to respond, supplies will be limited and distribution to rural areas may be slow.
It is our time to act. We are in contact with all of the clinics that Africa Foundation has supported, determining their critical needs. Every Doctor and Nurse we have spoken to has expressed their fear for themselves and their communities. Afraid that they do not have the equipment to detect cases, the facilities to isolate cases, and the protective clothing to stop the spread of cases. We are sourcing suppliers and determining costs and speed of delivery.
Every dollar will help to have the right supplies, in the right place, at the right time – and save people’s lives.
Household Food Insecurity
Household food security, as defined by FAO, is the ability of the household to secure, either from its own production or through purchases, adequate food to meet the dietary needs of all members of the household.
Social distancing and nationwide lockdowns, in response to COVID-19, have brought about a number of changes that are affecting a families ability to meet its needs:
- Children are not attending schools and pre-school. In these institutions they would usually receive a daily hot meal, which they are now deprived of.
- Many adults are no longer able to work and are not getting their usual income.
- The closure of hotels and restaurants has reduced demand on services and supplies, removing a whole trading market for many businesses in the neighbouring areas.
- Food price increases are already being observed as a result of the restrictions in movement of people and goods, increasing demand on a reduced supply.
Cumulatively, these effects are putting the poorest households, with the least cushioning, under immense and immediate pressure. And particularly in areas dependent on tourism, it is difficult to see when the pressure will be fully relieved and what the long-term lasting consequences may be. This uncertainty is extremely frightening and is layered on top of great fears around the spread of a potentially fatal virus.
What are we doing about it?
Families need some relief. People need to know that they can come through this, that there is support available to keep them above water.
Initiatives such as food parcels are outside of Africa Foundation’s ‘normal’ activities, primarily because they are not sustainable. However, we are in unprecedented times and are agile to respond to that. We recognise that by assisting communities now with this short-term direct support, we are building their overall resilience to COVID-19 and its medium to long term repercussions.
In each region, a systematic approach will be applied to identifying households which are most vulnerable, and most likely to fall between the cracks of any other support structures being put into place. Our goal is to provide identified households with a food and cleaning supplies parcel, containing essential items, that match Government guidelines and localised dietary norms.
Where possible we aim to source the supplies from local businesses, to stimulate the local economy and ensure that we continue to play an empowering role in the community. While being cost efficient with donors funds, we strongly believe that there is a greater long-term impact in keeping a local small business open, by purchasing from them at a marginally increased price.
Our engagements over recent weeks with communities in which we are active, have brought to the forefront the need for an immediate solution to the shortage of food at household level in over 30 communities in Rivers state, other states in Nigeria
$50 will provide a household of 6 with a supplementary parcel for a month.