Water scarcity threat to efforts for hygiene to defeat Covid-19

Tuesday June 23 2020


As regular hand washing is a key tool in combating the coronavirus, residents in Rusizi where infections have been registered in recent times are decrying a shortage of clean water. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

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As regular hand washing is a key tool in combating coronavirus, residents of Rusizi are decrying a shortage of water.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) people living in informal settlements, the homeless, rural populations, women, children, older persons, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and all other groups vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic need to have continuous access to sufficient and affordable water.

In Rusizi town where many people live from hand-to-mouth find it hard to access water points. They are even harder to get to with the movement restrictions in place to prevent further spread of the disease.

Compliance hitch

As Jonas Musabirema resident of Kamatita cell in Gihundwe sector, Rusizi District put it, "We do not have enough water to drink and cook our food, so where will we get water to wash our hands frequently?"

"If we are to fight back Covid-19, then the governments must provide us with water because for a while we have been trekking about a mile to fetch water," says Mr Musabirema.


"We cannot comply with recommendations of the Ministry of Health of sticking to strict hygiene measures to prevent the spread of the virus without having safe running water," Mr Musabirema added.

He said they fetch water from wells which they drink and use to cook food at home and do have little left over for washing hands regularly.

Other residents in Rusizi that talked to Rwanda Today said it is also essential that the government provides water for free or at least at a lower cost for the duration of the crisis to impoverished communities and those affected by the economic downturn.


"Giving people water at a cheaper price or for free is the only way to entice people in rural areas to adopt regular handwashing to prevent the spread of coronavirus," said Silvester Kyamatare another resident of Rusizi.

Officials from the Water and Sanitation Corporation in Rusizi told Rwanda Today of plans to reinstall disconnected water pipes but that the lockdown had halted the works.

Mr Emille Utazahera, Water Distribution Officer said the lack of water was a consequence of the construction of roads in the city that damaged some pipes. However, there were plans to provide all other areas with piped water this year.

Post-lockdown plumbing

"We agree there are some people who are struggling to get water in their homes, but it is not our fault since the government imposed the lockdown two days before we were due to commence plumbing works," said Mr Utazahera.

He added that they have managed to install some tanks in most affected areas to improve access to treated water and stop them from trekking long distances while in the confinement.

"We cannot assure them water very soon until after the lockdown is lifted. Also, it will most likely take us two to three months to finish all the plumbing so that they can get access to water in their homes," said Mr Utazahera.

By the time of going to press, the mayor of Rusizi was yet to respond to our requests for information.

Rwanda this year plans to generate 40,000 cubic metres from the Kanzenze (Metito) Water Treatment Plant under a public-private partnership framework to supply the city of Kigali and parts of Bugesera District.