Zambian expert says access to water key to COVID-19 prevention in vulnerable communities

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LUSAKA, July 27 (Xinhua) -- Access to water critical to preventing COVID-19 spread in low-income and vulnerable populations, Zambian public health expert said on Monday.

Rhodah Nchinga said governments in developing countries like Zambia need to begin working at providing continuous access to sufficient water if the international community is to successfully contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Regular hand washing is key to combating COVID-19. There is, therefore, need to ensure that high-risk communities like slums have access to continuous water supply as that is one sure of beating the pandemic," Nchinga said in an interview with Xinhua.

She asserted that water forms one of the key components of COVID-19 prevention measures and that it is important that poor and vulnerable communities are provided with water at a very minimal charge or cost fee particularly during this period, noting that this would also serve as an incentive to encourage many to adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures.

"This would encourage residents of low-income areas and vulnerable populations to comply with the WHO recommendations of regular hand washing and to also to observe other measures regarding prevention of the further spread of COVID-19," she added.

Nchinga further appealed to governments in developing countries to prioritize the provision of water to people living in informal settlements as well as other vulnerable populations such the elderly and persons with disabilities, who according to her are the most affected.

During interviews, residents of both Kanyama and Misisi, slums located in Zambia's capital Lusaka bemoaned the lack of affordable water, indicating that the commodity still remains costly for the majority of them.

"We can barely afford to get water for drinking and for preparing our food. Water for frequent hand washing is a luxury we cannot afford," lamented Alice Kondowe, a resident of Kanyama compound.

She explained many cannot afford to buy the commodity at kiosks at a cost of about 0.03 U.S. dollars per 20 litres, pushing them to get it from shallow wells and dams that are often infested with disease-causing organisms.

And a manager of a water kiosk in Misisi compound, Grace Ngwira said most households use water from dams and wells for washing clothes, bathing and other household need, but they get tap water from kiosks for cooking and drinking.

"However, those in dire situations use water from wells and dams for everything, including cooking and drinking," said Ngwira, who manages a water kiosk run by Care International. Enditem

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