As Covid-19 continues to force countries or economies to close businesses, public safety and saving lives has become non-negotiable. Unlike other neighbouring countries, Rwanda has imposed strict measures to stop the virus; mobilized food and non-food items such as masks and other Personal Protection Equipment all for the good and safety of the masses.
The government has also been successful in building a resilient system, particularly in delivering the fundamental healthtech services despite the economic uncertainties and the growing concerns about the future.
To bolster businesses from Covid-19 disruptions, the country has established relief funding notwithstanding regulating costs for food supplies.
However, access to clean/water remains a big challenge, not only in rural communities but also in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.
This has escalated limited handwashing, which not only enhances the spread of the pandemic more easily and fast, but also amplifies its lethality. Moreover, water has become personal protective equipment.
Unfortunately, it is women, children and domestic workers who spend hours each day fetching water or waiting at the crowded water points that are potentially likely to be exposed to or spread the virus.
If this trend continues, the health of these hard-working women will be compromised, yet, they have other responsibilities our patriarchal society has bestowed unto them-caring for the sick and performing domestic chores.
More so, these may disrupt the containment of the virus and the effective implementation of Covid-19 measures. It is therefore paramount for the water infrastructure to be coping well with the pandemic demands. There has been an eminent public outcry even on social media platforms that villages, including those in Kigali City lack basic water services; people lack water to wash hands and other sanitation services, yet, they are expected to live up to the heavily restraining measures. Here in Rwanda, not so many of the population have access to safe drinking water that is easily accessible within 30 minutes away from their homes including in Kigali.
The scarcity of water therefore not only exposes people to the virus; it also helps children keep out of school, since like women, they too spend most of the time at these water points. This is a big hindrance and typical of girls, who often are expected to also perform household chores like their mothers.
The consequences are thus dire. Yet, making sure the population has access to clean water would have significant returns-financially and by health standards, even in normal situations. It should thus be a worthwhile investment to improve the water infrastructure, either during or post Covid-19. The pandemic has showed us that water is vital personal protective equipment and should be given priority as any other health service, as most households cannot afford hand sanitizers.
And buying water in retail from vendors has proven to be cumulatively expensive. Simple as it may sound, Rwandans, especially city dwellers due to high population density, need clean water, so they can wash their hands and safely protect themselves frompreventable diseases like Covid 19.
Decision makers should by now understand that water is a connector across all health interventions and thus has critical implications for the effectiveness of Covid-19 response and for hygiene purposes.
To address this issue, the government needs to reinforce water governance to ensure the reliable delivery of water to the population and for priority uses, enhance water storage systems to head off potential consequences caused by the lack of it.