The need for good hygiene like handwashing is key to protecting against COVID-19. The provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions is essential to protecting health during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, in some parts of the world, people struggle to get regular clean drinking water, let alone clean water to wash hands. It’s a stark reminder of how vulnerable people without access to clean water are to COVID-19 and other illnesses.

According to the most recent data from UNICEF, only three out of five people worldwide have basic hand washing facilities. In many parts of the world, children, parents, teachers, healthcare workers and other members of the community do not have access to basic hand washing facilities at home, in healthcare facilities, schools or elsewhere. According to the latest estimates:

  • 40 percent of the world’s population, or 3 billion people, do not have a hand washing facility with water and soap at home. Nearly three-quarters of the people in the least developed countries lack basic hand washing facilities at home.
  • 47 percent of schools lacked a hand washing facility with water and soap affecting 900 million school-age children. Over one-third of schools worldwide and half of schools in the least developed countries have no place for children to wash their hands at all. 
  • 16 percent of healthcare facilities, or around 1 in 6, have no hygiene service, meaning they lack hand hygiene facilities where patients receive care, as well as soap and water at toilets.

Urban populations are particularly at risk of viral respiratory infections due to population density and more frequent public gatherings in crowded spaces like markets, public transport or places of worship. People living in urban poor slums are particularly at risk. As a result, handwashing becomes even more important. Yet:

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 63 percent of people in urban areas, or 258 million people, lack access to handwashing. Some 47 percent of urban South Africans, for example, or 18 million people, lack basic hand washing facilities at home with the richest urban dwellers nearly 12 times more likely to have access to hand washing facilities.
  • In Central and South Asia, 22 percent of people in urban areas, or 153 million people, lack access to handwashing. Nearly 50 percent of urban Bangladeshis, for example, or 29 million people; and 20 percent of urban Indians, or 91 million, lack basic hand washing facilities at home.
  • In East Asia, 28 percent of urban Indonesians, or 41 million people, and 15 percent of urban Filipinos, or 7 million people, lack basic hand washing facilities at home.

Through the generous support of our donors, Thirst Relief is able to give developing countries access to clean water using biosand filters or drilling and repairing borehole wells. We work with the local community and use local labor, which also helps keep the cost low. The good news: For as little as $10, you can help Thirst Relief provide clean water to communities in need for many years! 

The situation is further compounded by the fact that for many people living in rural underdeveloped areas, the importance of handwashing is not understood or embraced. Also, in areas where water is not readily available, people may decide handwashing is not a priority, adding to the spread of diarrhea and other diseases. So, in addition to distributing Thirst Relief BioSand filters, we also provide education on handwashing to families.

While the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for clean water, there are many benefits of clean water, from good health to economic stability.

We are in this together and there has never been a more urgent need for your help. Please help us save lives!