Water Currents: WASH and COVID-19


This special issue contains links to key websites as well as studies and reports that discuss the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)–related aspects of COVID-19. With the release of additional funding, to date USAID has committed up to $100 million in financing from the Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious-Disease Outbreaks for 25 countries affected by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) or at high risk of its spread.

The COVID-19 virus is transmitted through two main routes: respiratory and contact. No evidence to date suggests that the virus is present in surface or groundwater sources or transmitted through contaminated drinking water. And no evidence to date suggests that the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, either with or without treatment.

The provision of safe WASH conditions is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are some WASH–related infectious disease prevention and control measures. 

  • Ensuring good and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and health care facilities will further help to prevent human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Frequent and proper handwashing with soap is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus. WASH activities aiming to respond to COVID-19 should work to enable handwashing by improving services and facilities and using proven behavior change techniques. 
  • Reliable water services in health facilities and households are critical to ensuring both sufficient quantities of safe drinking water and the ability to maintain hygiene (including hand hygiene, laundering, cleaning, and disinfection). 

Q&A: The Novel Coronavirus Outbreak Causing COVID-19. BMC Medicine, February 2020. This article discusses the clinical presentation of COVID-19, how people are being treated, and what measures are likely to be successful in curbing its further spread.

Q&A on Coronaviruses (COVID-19)World Health Organization (WHO), March 2020. This Q&A provides information on the spread of COVID-19, symptoms, treatment, and more.

Key Considerations: Quarantine in the Context of COVID-19Social Science in Humanitarian Action, March 2020. This brief sets out practical considerations relating to the design and impact of measures that restrict human movement patterns in the context of COVID-19.

Preparedness and Response Planning ToolkitUSAID, January 2019. A toolkit designed to help national-level public health decision-makers develop a plan for effective preparedness and response to public health emergencies and ensure a robust multisectoral and One Health approach.

WASH/Hygiene Aspects
Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Waste Management for COVID-19 Technical BriefWHO; UNICEF, March 2020. This brief summarizes the latest evidence on persistence of the COVID-19 virus and highlights key elements of existing WHO guidance on water, sanitation, and health care waste, which is relevant for viruses (including coronaviruses). It focuses largely on health care and community settings.

Handwashing with Soap—Our Best Defence Against CoronavirusWash’em, March 2020. The act of handwashing with soap remains the best defense against coronavirus. This guide gives practical tips on how to encourage community-level handwashing behavior with the aim of controlling and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Handwashing and Coronavirus Fact SheetGlobal Handwashing Partnership (GHP), March 2020. For novel viruses with no vaccine, it is especially important to practice preventative measures, such as handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and social distancing to slow the outbreak.

Persistence of Coronaviruses on Inanimate Surfaces and their Inactivation with Biocidal AgentsJournal of Hospital Infection, March 2020. Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days. Surface disinfection with 0.1 percent sodium hypochlorite or 62 percent–71 percent ethanol significantly reduces coronavirus infectivity on surfaces within one minute of exposure time.

The Water Professional’s Guide to COVID-19Water Environment Federation, February 2020. Because this disease already has begun to spread worldwide, it is important that water sector professionals keep informed on the attributions of this virus and any measures needed to protect both workers and public health. The information posted here is a summary of current knowledge about this emerging viral pathogen.

The Sphere Standards and the Coronavirus ResponseSphere, 2020. The document outlines the underlying principles and the importance of community engagement, as well as a detailed review of the relevant technical guidance in the WASH and Health chapters of the Sphere Handbook.

Coronavirus Outbreak Updates. GHP Soapbox, February 2020.  In this newsletter, GHP provides an update on the coronavirus outbreak, its impacts, and measures that can be taken to protect households and communities.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Technical Guidance: Infection Prevention and Control/WASHWHO, February 2020. This article contains links to WHO tools and guidelines on topics such as protective equipment, home care for patients, waste management, and handrub formulations.

To Fight the Coronavirus, Wash Your Hands and Support Clean Water Access Around the WorldUSA Today, March 2020. In this op-ed, Susan Barnett of Global Water 2020 discusses the importance of handwashing and how the lack of safe health care (from insurance to soap and water) around the world is jeopardizing everyone’s health.

Why COVID-19 Can’t Beat a Good Hand-WashingPopular Science, March 2020. Matthew Freeman, a professor of epidemiology and global health at Emory University, discusses the science behind how handwashing works to fight germs.

COVID-19–Why the Gaps in Available Data are Far More TerrifyingIRCWASH Blog, March 2020. The WASH community must support health authorities in tackling the outbreak by: amplifying the emphasis on hygiene and handwashing by any means; making available its expertise, from technical solutions to campaigning and improving water security; and prioritizing its work with health care facilities to prevent them from becoming sources of viral transmission.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic. WHO – This website includes information and guidance regarding the current outbreak of COVID-19 that was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December. Please visit this page for daily updates. The website has information on Situation ReportsTravel AdviceTechnical Guidance, and additional information.

Global WASH Cluster (GWC) COVID-19 Resource Menu – The Resource Menu is a mapping of current WASH specific resources relating to the COVID-19 global response and GWC will keep updating it as the situation develops.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – The CDC website features information on prevention, symptoms, the U.S. caseload, and information targeted to specific audiences, including health care professionals and communities. It also has a Frequently Asked Questions section.

Coronavirus Resources. GHP – This webpage links to fact sheets, technical briefs, and a growing list of other resources.

COVID-19 and WASH. Sanitation and Water for All – This page contains different resources and tools such as documents, videos, social media materials with messaging on public health, webinar recordings, etc.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases Dashboard. Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering – This dashboard provides statistics on the number of cases, deaths, and recoveries by country.

Social Media Accounts

Journal/Research Collections
Major publishers have created coronavirus information centers where relevant and current research is open access. These include:


Water Currents
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USAID Water Team