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Two billion people are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to poor sanitation

Published on 21/05/20 at 12:14pm
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

About a quarter of the world’s population are at higher risk of catching the COVID-19 coronavirus due to a lack of access to proper sanitation.

This is according to research carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

In 46 countries, more than half of people do not have access to soap and clean water. In Nigeria, China, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, more than 50 million people were estimated to be without handwashing access.

More than 50% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania also lacked effective handwashing. The research does not estimate access to handwashing facilities in non-household settings like schools and workplaces. The World Health Organization has estimated 190,000 people could die from COVID-19 in Africa during the first year of the pandemic.

Even with 25% percent of the world having inadequate access to handwashing, there has been an significant improvement between 1990 and 2019, with countries like Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nepal and Tanzania being some of the most notable in their improvement in sanitation access.

Dr Michael Brauer, Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said: “Temporary fixes, such as hand sanitizer or water trucks, are just that - temporary fixes. But implementing long-term solutions is needed to protect against COVID and the more than 700,000 deaths each year due to poor handwashing access."

Conor Kavanagh

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