A non-government Organisation, WASHMATA Initiative, Saturday, expressed worry over silence by Presidential Task Force on control of Coronavirus, COVID-19, on clean water supply and accessibility by Nigerians to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
Expressing concern over lack of clean water to Nigerians despite rising number of infected persons with the virus, the Executive Director, WASHMATA Initiative, Dr Boluwaji Onabolu, in a statement signed by her pointed out that there is need for urgent inclusion of the Minister for Water Resources, Commissioners for Water Resources and Heads of the Rural Water, Supply and Sanitation Agencies in the National and State Task Forces for COVID-19.
The statement reads in part, "Firstly, as a Public Health Expert with over a decade of work experience with the United Nations in various countries and capacities focused on ensuring water supply, sanitation and hygiene, I would like to commend the efforts of the Nigerian government through the Presidential Task Force on the control of COVID-19.
"However, the silence of the Presidential Task Force on the provision of adequate quantities of water for people to wash their hands with soap under running water for 20 seconds as is being recommended by the WHO and the NCDC for the effective control of COVID 19 is very worrisome.
"In a country where two-thirds of the populace lack clean drinking water, 94 per cent of the health facilities and almost all the overcrowded motor parks and markets (91%) lack water, sanitation and handwashing facilities; a plan to urgently and systematically provide WASH services, in the COVID-19 National response is critical otherwise it may result in an exponential rise in coronavirus cases as is being seen in 'superpowers' USA and Italy.
"We entreat the task force and all citizens at large to understand that it will be extremely difficult for many Nigerians especially the poor and vulnerable, living in overcrowded urban slums and rural areas, to adhere to the handwashing recommendation, thereby, rendering the Task Force's laudable interventions ineffective.
"Prevention and Treatment need water! Simply put "how can the citizens of Nigeria implement the preventive measure to wash hands with soap under running water for 20 seconds if there is no running water"?"
The statement also added, "Furthermore, the isolation centers cannot function hygienically without adequate water, supply and sanitation thus unduly increasing the risk of infection of the extremely important medical personnel.
"The WHO Guidelines to countries on the effective use of this lockdown period includes the equipping of treatment centers with critical facilities.
"It is not just about infrastructure, there have been several instances of citizens insisting that there is no COVID-19 in the country or washing their mouths with sanitizer due to a lack of sensitisation.
"The WASH sector is trained in community mobilization and sensitization using water as an entry point into resistant communities, after all in the words of a famous musician everyone loves water; i.e 'water no get enemy'.
"The relegation of the Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene sector to the distant background is alarming and indicates a gap in the global best practice of collaboration between WASH and Health which is required to prevent the coronavirus from spreading like wild-fire in Nigeria.
"A key indicator of the poor integration of WASH into the COVID-19 response plan is the absence of the Minister for Water Resources on the Presidential Task Force, though the Ministry is statutorily responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene services in the country; a major component of the global responses to COVID-19."
The organization also warned that it will be disastrous if the issue of water is not urgently given attention.
"We must do all we can not to go down the route of the USA, Italy, and Spain; failing to implement preventive measures, their normally robust health systems are overwhelmed, and medical personnel is being infected.
"The present response can be strengthened by incorporating the WASH in emergencies partnership with the Health sector. We must join hands to prevent the spread", it stressed.
Meanwhile, the organization also recommended that "Urgent inclusion of the Minister for Water Resources, Commissioners for Water Resources and Heads of the Rural Water, Supply and Sanitation Agencies in the National and State Task Forces for COVID-19
"Support the FMWR, SMWR, and RUWASSAs to trigger the WASH disaster response mechanism already in place for WASH-related emergencies such as COVID-19
"Collaborate with the FMWR, SMWR, and RUWASSAs to ensure that facilities at which COVID-19 cases are managed have adequate water supply, sanitation, and handwashing facilities.
"We commend the Federal Government of Nigeria on actions taken so far and entreat that in the interest of all Nigerians they will implement our recommendations."