Water Currents: WASH and COVID-19 Update

This second special issue of Water Currents contains links to recent key websites as well as studies and reports that discuss the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)–related aspects of COVID-19 and updates the March 26, 2020, Water Currents on COVID-19. The provision of safe WASH conditions is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the globe, USAID is supporting countries affected by COVID-19. Among USAID’s priority approaches is the provision of emergency WASH services and supplies, and long-term support to maintain continuity of WASH services. The recently published Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH): Strategic Approach to COVID-19 Response (see first entry below) provides a comprehensive overview of USAID’s whole of Agency approach to WASH within the context of COVID-19. 

This issue contains recent studies and resources on COVID-19 and handwashing, menstrual hygiene management, humanitarian issues, and other topics.

In Focus

USAID Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH): Strategic Approach to COVID-19 ResponseUSAID, April 17, 2020. This document provides a comprehensive overview of USAID's strategic approaches to WASH within the context of COVID-19 across health, emergency, and longer term recovery programming.

Water for the World’s Response to COVID-19USAID, May 2020. Access to WASH services is a crucial pillar of USAID’s response to COVID-19. This fact sheet outlines how the Agency is adapting ongoing Water for the World programs to provide emergency assistance, mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19, protect progress, and speed recovery.

Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Waste Management for the COVID-19 Virus: Interim Guidance. April 2020. This guidance was originally published in March 2020. This first update provides details on hand hygiene, sanitation, protecting WASH workers, and supporting the continuation and strengthening of WASH services, especially in underserved areas.

Monitoring and Mitigating the Secondary Impacts of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic on WASH Services Availability and AccessUNICEF, March 2020. This document details potential secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, methods to monitor them, and measures to contain them in a WASH–specific context.

COVID-19 Faecal-Oral Transmission: Are We Asking the Right Questions? Science of the Total Environment, August 2020. Recently, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been detected in stools and sewage, which has raised a hypothesis on the fecal-oral transmission of the disease. The confirmation of this hypothesis could lead to far-reaching consequences for public health and for pandemic control strategies.

As Lockdowns Lift, New Hazards Lurk in the WaterNature, April 2020. As some areas start to rescind their lockdowns, water experts are raising the alarm on the risks associated with stagnant water in unused buildings, which can harbor infectious bacteria and heavy metals.

COVID-19 and Handwashing/Hygiene
COVID-19 Handwashing with Soap Facilities: Compendium of Indicative Layouts, Designs, and Cost EstimatesUNICEF, April 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a demand for behavior change and sustained practices of handwashing with soap. This document calls for exploring existing options and creating newer designs of handwashing stations globally to cater to the demand of COVID–19 responsive features. It also explores some of the suggestions and possible options in different situations.

Handwashing Compendium for Low Resource Settings. Sanitation Learning Hub, April 2020. This compendium includes information and further reading on handwashing facilities, including facilities that are accessible for all, environmental cues to reinforce handwashing behaviors, and ways to continue hygiene promotion activities while maintaining social distancing.

Interim Recommendations on Obligatory Hand Hygiene Against Transmission of COVID-19WHO, April 2020. Current evidence indicates that the SARS-CoV-2  virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets or contact. This document provides nine hand-hygiene recommendations to address mitigating the spread of the virus.

Understanding Hygiene Promotion in the Context of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) OutbreakUNICEF, April 2020. This Guidance Note provides information on specific aspects to consider when planning and implementing a hygiene promotion campaign as part of a broader risk communication and community engagement strategy.

Did You Get the Message? My Favorite Behavior Change Studies Can Inform the COVID-19 ResponseR&E Search for Evidence, April 2020. In this article, the author explores evidence on fear-based messaging, the use of nudges to reflexively trigger behaviors, and specific determinants that influence handwashing behavior.

COVID-19 and Health Care Facilities
Rx Hand Hygiene: Facilitating Clean Hands in Healthcare Facilities During COVID-19 and BeyondGlobal Handwashing Partnership, Emory University’s Center for Global Safe Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, May 7, 2020. The webinar highlighted the importance of access to hand hygiene facilities and practical actions that can be taken in low-resource settings. Presentations and discussions emphasized innovative solutions for access, the issue of recontamination, and sustaining behavior change beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar slide deck and summary are now available.

Ten Immediate WASH Actions in Health Care Facilities for COVID-19 ResponseGlobal Water 2020, April 2020. This summary describes 10 immediate WASH actions that low-resource health care facilities can undertake with limited budgets in the near-term (0–3 months) to prepare for and address COVID-19. The report is available in other languages, while webinars and other resources are available on the WASH in Healthcare Facilities website.

Sanitation for Health Care Facilities in the Context of COVID-19UNICEF, May 2020. Part of the global webinar series on WASH in health care facilities and COVID-19 held in April 2020, this episode explains the latest evidence-based guidance on sanitation and wastewater in health care facilities, with speakers from WaterAid Ghana, WHO Liberia, and the Ministry of Health Vietnam. Additional videos are on their YouTube channel.

WASH in Health Care Facilities – This UNICEF knowledge portal is for all WASH stakeholders to exchange the latest standards, tools, approaches, achievements, and learnings. The website has a series of webinars on COVID-19 and technical reports.

For COVID-19, Focus on the Basics: WASH in Healthcare FacilitiesSWA, April 2020. This blog explains why it is critical that water, soap, and basic sanitation, the foundation of infection prevention and control, be made available in every health care facility, and that this could be key to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Humanitarian Situations
Global Humanitarian Response Plan: COVID-19 (April–December 2020)UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, March 2020. This Humanitarian Response Plan is a joint effort by members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to analyze and respond to the direct public health and indirect immediate humanitarian consequences of the pandemic, particularly on people in countries already facing other crises.

Global WASH Cluster (GWC) COVID-19 WASH ResourcesGWC, March 2020. The primary aim of the GWC COVID-19 Resource page is to centralize WASH–specific resources for the COVID-19 response. The GWC website collects key technical guidance documents and links to training events and webinars to facilitate access for WASH staff and practitioners.

United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) COVID-19 WASH ResourcesUNHCR, March 2020. These documents have been compiled to help WASH partners in refugee settings prepare and respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)
Period Posse Presents: What Do We Need to Consider During COVID-19Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, April 2020. This webinar discusses menstrual materials for health care workers, MHM and COVID-19 in humanitarian contexts, MHM during quarantine in Uganda and India, and MHM and product affordability.

Brief: Mitigating the Impacts of COVID-19 and Menstrual Health and HygieneUNICEF, April 2020. To date, no evidence indicates that COVID-19 has an impact on the menstrual cycle directly, though stress, anxiety, and malnutrition can impact reproductive health. The COVID-19 pandemic will, however, have secondary impacts on girls’ and women’s ability to manage their menstruation and their health.

Periods Do Not Stop for PandemicsMenstrual Hygiene Day, April 2020. This section of the Menstrual Hygiene Day website contains news articles, blog posts, and information related to menstruation, hygiene, and COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Menstruation Resources and ArticlesGlobal Menstrual Collective, April 2020. The purpose of the collective is to guide investment in menstrual health and hygiene through evidence-based advocacy. This document will gather information and resources as they emerge; recommendations for additions are welcomed.

COVID-19 and Schools/Education
Corona Comic—No Chance for Corona: How Kids Can Help Beat the VirusWelthungerhilfe, April 2020. This comic strip was published to ensure that children and young people understand why drastic restrictions are being placed on everyday life and what they can do to protect themselves, their family, and their friends from COVID-19.

Knowledge Map: WASH in Schools and CoronavirusWASH in Schools Network, April 2020. The WASH in Schools Network has compiled this knowledge map with links to relevant materials about COVID-19 for learners, their families, and the education system.

USAID Responding to COVID-19’s Impact on Resilience and Food SecurityUSAID.gov, May 2020. This page provides information and resources related to USAID’s long-term food security and nutrition response through Feed the Future and its work to ensure safe and sustainable access to WASH through Water for the World. 

COVID-19 Hygiene Hub – The COVID-19 Hygiene Hub is hosted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the hub helps actors in low- and middle-income countries share, design, and adapt evidence-based hygiene interventions to combat COVID-19.

Globalwaters.org – The website contains links to handwashing studies and resources, information on USAID’s strategic COVID-19 response, and additional resources.

Global Handwashing Partnership: Responding to COVID-19 – This resource contains blog posts, links to resources, and an online forum.

Sanitation and Water for All: COVID-19 and WASH –  Sanitation and Water for All has compiled different resources and tools around COVID-19 and WASH, including documents, videos, social media materials on public health, webinar recordings, and more.

Wash’Em COVID-19 Resources – This website features links to courses, webinars, reports, and additional resources to help local-level actors respond rapidly and effectively to the pandemic.



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