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Nosizo Sebake

21 June 2020

Mark Napier


Nosizo Sebake


Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

South Africa


Website References

Built environment



Human settlements

Informal settlements

Poverty & inequality


South Africa





Water and sanitation

Access to water and sanitation

COVID-19 Responses Collection

This page forms part of the COVID-19 Responses Collection.

Here we present publications and tools to help address the issue of access to water and sanitation.

Publications, articles and blog posts

  • 2 billion people are at risk of Covid-19 because they can't wash their hands - In this blog post, Rodriguez (2020) brings attention to an Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's (IHME) report titled “Handwashing is crucial for combating Coronavirus” which specifically looked at handwashing access in household settings.
    • "While the report focused on access to handwashing basics like soap and water, behavior change also plays a role in turning handwashing into a healthy habit."
  • An effective response to Covid-19 requires innovative water and sanitation services - Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” Arundhati Roy (Indian novelist and critic).
  • In this article, Bauer, suggests that the COVID-19 crisis may provide governments with an opportunity to build innovative service models like WonderkidCitytaps, Drinkwell, Sanergy, or Project Safe Hands. These apps use a combination of partnerships and technology to provide communities with access to water and sanitation in settlements.

  • ANALYSIS: Who has been hit hardest by SA’s lockdown? - In this article, Arndt, Robinson and Gabriel (2020) describe two components of the lockdown in South Africa, namely the restriction of people's movement outside of their homes and on operations of non-essential industries to prevent disease. Using an economic modelling tool called SAM-multiplier analysis (Social Accounting Matrix), they estimate the impact of the South African lockdown on GDP, earnings of different categories of labour (low to high skill), and incomes of household groups (poor to rich).
  • Combating the Coronavirus without clean water - In this blog post, Otto, Kuzma, Strong and Chertock (2020) consider immediate actions that governments can take to increase access to clean water and hand-washing amenities. The authors recommend that governments prioritize three strategies when investing in longer-term investments.

    • "As places throughout the world come together to fight COVID-19 and rebuild, let’s remember water is a vital tool to strengthen communities and build resilience in the long-term."
  • Coronavirus global health emergency - This webpage brings together water and sanitation-related information from UN-Water Members and Partners in the light of the coronavirus global emergency. UN-Water is working to ensure the most up-to-date information, resources and guidance as they become available.
  • Covid-19 and WASH - In this webpage, Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) compile different resources and tools around COVID-19 and WASH. These include documents, videos, social media posts, webinar recordings, etc. and are intended to help SWA's partners in responding to this health crisis in their countries.
  • Covid-19 pandemic could expose Africa’s poor water and sanitation infrastructure - In this book, Cillers (2020) stresses the urgency for urban planning in Africa. This, the author suggests would provide for roads, railways and ports, as well as, more basic infrastructure (i.e. clean water, improved sanitation facilities and electricity), and better health and education services.
    • “In Africa, providing basic infrastructure such as WaSH facilities and electricity reduces the impact of diarrhoeal and vector-borne diseases, as well as the respiratory harm caused by indoor use of traditional fuels such as dung and charcoal.”
  • Covid-19: Areas without running water or proper sanitation can't limit exposure - In this interview, Barnes voices her concern about the large percentage of the South African population not having access to clean, running water available. She adds the knowledge of how to protect yourself has not been widely disseminated to communities that don't have access to 'first world media'.
    • "We need watering points closer to people's homes so that they don't have to walk that far, we also need proper management of those watering points."
  • Covid-19: Opportunities and challenges for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector - In this policy brief, Mnisi (2020) explores the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic’s preventative interventions may have opened opportunities for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in South Africa. For instance, "[i]nformation gleaned from [two] villages in Limpopo Province reveals stark continuing deficits in WASH provision... Residents who cannot afford to pay are compelled to source their drinking water from unprotected and potentially hazardous sources."
  • Covid-19: Resources for the Water and Sanitation sector - This fact sheet is a compilation of resources and initiatives that the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has collated to help its partners with the management of the Coronavirus within the water and sanitation sector.
  • Covid-19: Solving Africa’s water crisis is more urgent than ever - In this blog post, Ndaw reports on the many rapid responses that have been put in place by numerous African governments in an effort to curb COVID-19. He cautions that close to two-thirds of the Sub-Saharan population currently find it difficult to access basic water services and subsequently cannot wash their hands.
    • "An estimated 70% to 80% of the region’s diseases are attributable to poor water quality."
  • Norms and Standards for Water and Sanitation - This document, compiled by Eglin, of Afesis Corplan (2020) lists and describes the norms and standards specifically for water and sanitation in South Africa.
  • The coronavirus pandemic might make buildings sick too - In this article, Proctor, Whelton and Rhoads (2020) warn of the dangers of water in the pipes of empty unused buildings.
    • "Water left sitting in the pipes of buildings can present serious health risks.”
    • “Standards are lacking and very much needed for restarting plumbing and ensuring continued water safety after the pandemic passes."
  • Understanding water issues and challenges (II) - In this article, written in February 2019, Toxopeüs discusses some of the challenges that are hindering local government from providing water functions.
    • "Municipalities are tasked with developing and maintaining infrastructure to ensure that water services are delivered, amongst other services. But some municipalities are facing a serious backlog in the infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation necessary for providing potable water and sanitation services, as a result of severe financial and capacity constraints."
  • Water and sanitation emergency procurement Covid-19 disaster response directions, issued in terms of Regulation 10(8) of Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of Disaster Management Act, 2020 - In this document, the Department of Water and Sanitation, gives guidance concerning the emergency procurement of water and sanitation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa.
  • Water and sanitation in the face of Covid-19 in Cape Town’s townships and informal settlements - In this article Hara, Ncube and Sibanda (2020) discuss the issues concerning access to water and sanitation for communities in townships, informal settlements and the homeless. They reflect on why these issues persist and make recommendations for strategies the government could put in place now and following the pandemic.
    • "The Covid-19 pandemic is a rude awakening for South Africa’s ability to provide water and sanitation for the poor and marginalised. However, it is also an opportunity to reflect on some of the policies and strategies that the government has used so far in providing these services to the poor. The need to address water and sanitation challenges is urgent."
  • Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for the Covid-19 virus: interim guidance - This document provides interim guidance to supplement the infection prevention and control (IPC) documents by summarizing WHO guidance on water, sanitation and health-care waste relevant to viruses, including coronaviruses. It is intended for water and sanitation practitioners and providers, and health-care providers who want to know more about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) risks and practices.


    World leaders' Call to Action on Covid-19 | Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) - World leaders agree, in this global call to action that "until there is a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, there is no better cure than prevention" and that consequently "water, sanitation and hand hygiene, together with physical distancing, are central to preventing the spread of COVID-19, and a first line of defence against this serious threat to lives and health systems. This document outlines the response plans that governments at national, regional and global levels must take to prioritize water, sanitation and hygiene services.

    Yonela Diko: Covid-19 & the water sector: Crisis often inspires reform - In this article, Diko (2020) reflects on South Africa's development around mineral resources and how this has been a challenge for cities as the urban population increases. He suggests that given South Africa's lower conversion rate of water from rainfall into water, the country needs to focus on engineering means to build storage capacity for water.

    • “The provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions are essential for protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Ensuring evidenced-based and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and healthcare facilities will help prevent human-to-human transmission of, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
    • "Although South Africa is not in the top 17 countries considered the driest countries in the world, ...a third of South Africa's population is still not water secure."

Photo credit: SPARC

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