JOHANNESBURG/DAK­AR: People globally are being told to wash their hands to fight the spread of coronavirus but in Africa many can’t, experts said, urging states to use the pandemic as a reason to finally push for improvements to water supplies.

Aid workers and advisers said countries should seize the moment ahead of World Water Day on Sunday to reinforce water security on a continent hit by frequent droughts and where many people do not have access to a sink.

“In the water sector we always say ‘Don’t waste a good crisis’,” said Inga Jacobs-Mata, the South African representative from non-profit research group the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

“Coronavirus has already highlighted that safe water and sanitation is essential to protecting human life during all infectious disease outbreaks,” she said in a phone interview.

Africa has been less severely hit by Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, with an estimated 700 cases on the continent, compared to 41,035 in Italy alone, according to recent reports.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2020