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Did you know that 60% of the world’s population have inadequate sanitation and 80% have water supplies that are 1 kilometer, or more, from their homes? This is a serious problem, considering that around 680 million people throughout the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. To address this challenge, UNICEF created its Water Sanitation Health (WASH) program.
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As people became more aware of the program, they started to embrace the process of cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene. UNICEF touched lives around the globe when the times were dire.
Pandemic Brings UNICEF’s WASH Initiatives To Focus
The history of WASH dates back to 1988 when the International Water and Sanitation Council (IRC)and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council used the term Water, Sanitation and Health. The United Nations later helped increase awareness of the project.
Furthermore, the WASH initiative played a very important role during the pandemic situation. As water and sanitation became powerful weapons against COVID-19, WASH was able to create its mark in the lives of many rural and urban residents of different natives. Moreover, UNICEF assisted many countries during those crucial times to provide complete hygiene kits to places in dire need. UNICEF reached out to India as a key stakeholder in improving the quality of drinking water.
They actively managed drinking water services in India during the waves of the pandemic. Therefore, soon people focused on washing, sanitization, and health for the family. They reached those parts of the country where there were not enough hospitals.
In addition, the hygiene packs also helped people to fight against the problem of getting basic hygiene products such as soaps, shampoos, sanitary towels, and disinfecting wipes.
The Ripple Effect Of Poor Sanitation
The rapid survey on children in 2013-14 reported less than 50 percent had access to safely managed drinking water in India. The chemical contamination of water was mainly through fluoride and arsenic, present in 1.96 million dwellings. In addition, two-thirds of India’s 718 districts were affected by extreme water depletion, and there was a lack of planning for water safety and security, which was a major concern. (UNICEF, India)
It contributes to a high neonatal mortality rate, I.e., 24 deaths per 1000 live births. Hence, poor sanitation was not only a concern during the pandemic, but it also created multiple health-related issues for maternal deaths.
How WASH Became A Solution For The Problem?
UNICEF reached out to the Govt. Of India to provide assistance in 16 states and 192 districts. They expanded their program from rural to urban areas. The aim was to create awareness and provide sanitation to everyone who was left out of the sanitation equation.
They monitored the status of sanitation in real-time with an evaluation with third-party verification. It was hosted by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, which helped UNICEF work efficiently.
At some places, UNICEF also handed in complete hygiene kits named wash kits. It covered many items that are crucial for the everyday sanitation of a family with two adults and three children/adolescents; for emergency situations (1HH).
During the pandemic, this complete hygiene pack became a major solution for families as they were socially distanced from the market. When everything was shut down and at a standstill, UNICEF worked and provided for the rural and urban families in need. They also had other kits that covered five households (5HH).
Furthermore, they gave out water purification tablets with certain complete hygiene kits that are 1HH and 5HH categories of packs. It provided a great solution for families of all types. The coverage of this initiative helped India reduce the number of active cases during the pandemic as well. As a result, the WASH initiative became one of the major ways to tackle the COVID-19 situation.
The Current Situation Of Covid-19 And WASH Response
Just as before, the new variant of the COVID-19 virus is worsening the health situation around the world, and the WASH response is a solution that can prove to be of great value right now as well.
The initiative was started as a way to address the deficiency of water, sanitation and health around the world. Today, these facilities are needed more than ever before. It would create a strong positive impact on the public health of different countries amid the pandemic situation. Furthermore, the movement that UNICEF opened by providing solutions and complete hygiene kits can be taken forward with local self-help groups.
In conclusion, the program was geared toward helping those people who don’t have access to clean drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene. The program works especially well in countries where there are issues with clean drinking water. The WASH program is relevant in urban countries as well as rural. Through this program, UNICEF can make a difference in many people’s lives by helping them with basic healthcare needs.