Urgent need for hand washing facilities
WASH specialist Juan Smulders at Unicef reports on the construction of water and soap facilities to enable 200,000 South Africans to wash their hands.
Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, WASH facilities in South African townships are urgently needed. Smulders responded to a call of the Dutch government as part of the rapid-response programme DSS Water.
Outbreak in townships
Africa was relatively spared for a long time, but now the Covid-19 virus is also hitting hard on South Africa’s townships. Millions of people live there without proper sanitation.
Reason for Dutch Surge Support Water (DSS Water) and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) to deploy WASH expert Juan Smulders to South Africa to assist in the construction of such urgently needed facilities. Coincidentally, Smulders was already in Africa.
In a recent report on his assignment to the South African communities, Smulders mentions the importance of communication. 'The construction of handwashing facilities is very important for these communities, where people are at high risk for Covid-19’, Smulders reports.
‘We install handwashing stations: public water containers with wash basins, taps and soap. But we also provide information about the importance of handwashing. People need good information.’
Basic WASH services
According to Smulders, the communities expect that basic services such as clean water and sewerage will finally come to the townships. ‘Covid-19 demonstrates the importance of these facilities. Although general opinion is that access to proper sanitation should have been implemented a long time ago. Now that their is an even more pressing need, they want the government to do something.’
Smulders sees a different role emerging for traditional aid workers. ‘Their role is often focused on development aid, not emergency aid. But now that everyone is slowly coming out of the lockdown, the basic facilities need to be in place quickly. This is about poor people, who often have no choice but to go outside to earn money and stay alive.’
Smulders was briefly in quarantine and has not yet been able to see to what extent people are adhering to the rules. ‘People find it hard to accept that they cannot do their daily activities and go out. They have to go outside for the toilet or groceries anyway.’
The first water tanks have been installed and in total some 400 are planned to be installed at schools, health centres and settlements.
About DSS Water
The Dutch Surge Support Water facility (DSS Water) supports operations of humanitarian organisations during and immediately after a disaster by deploying experienced water experts. A pool of more than hundred DSS experts consists of top professionals in the field of water resources management, WASH and other affiliated areas of expertise.
DSS water is an initiative of the Dutch government, in close collaboration with the Dutch water sector and the Dutch Red Cross.
Call for experts
The current Coronacrisis and the related travel ban makes it difficult to deploy experts. DSS Water is therefore looking for Dutch water experts living abroad. Interested parties can visit the website to apply.