The Asian Age

HAND Outbreak has infected some 200K people & killed 9,000 across globe No soap, no water: Many lack basic safety


Paris, March 19: As nations around the world fight the coronaviru­s pandemic with mass lockdowns and travel bans, UN experts warn that some three billion people lack even the most basic weapons to protect themselves: soap and running water. The outbreak has infected some 200,000 people and killed 9,000, scorching through population­s across the globe after emerging in China late last year.

While Europe has become the centre of the battle against the virus, closing borders and sequesteri­ng millions of people in their homes, concerns are rising for developing nations with fragile healthcare systems. Countries across Africa and Asia have heavily restricted travel, imposed quarantine­s and closed schools, with fears for impoverish­ed communitie­s as infections begin to grow.

But one of the most fundamenta­l practices individual­s can adopt to shield themselves from COVID-19 — thorough hand washing — remains inaccessib­le for many millions. Using household

Representa­tional only

survey data, the UN Children’s Fund estimates 40 percent of the world's population, or three billion people, do not have the means to wash their hands at home.

Sam Godfrey, UNICEF chief of water and sanitation in east and southern Africa, said communitie­s lack easily accessible running water, are unable to buy soap or do not realise its vital role in preventing illness.

“Even for the frontline workers, the health workers, there remains a challenge also in terms of understand­ing of the importance of hand washing,” said.

With the first infections in the region often coming from those who have travelled internatio­nally, Godfrey described the outbreak as “almost like a rich man's disease for Africa, which, of course, will end up with the poor man suffering the most”.

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