PRETORIA, South Africa, July 25, 2020/ — As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread in South Africa and globally, handwashing with soap remains one of the most effective preventative actions to curb the spread of the virus.
The reality on the ground is that nearly one-third of households in South Africa do not have access to adequate handwashing facilities. To help address this critical need, the United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has committed R8.6 million ($500,000) to UNICEF to build much-needed handwashing stations within public spaces in communities that lack access to running water, such as health care facilities, schools, transport hubs, and markets.
“An infectious disease threat anywhere can be a threat everywhere. Investments in global health protect Americans and the global community. USAID’s support will help South Africans have access to this first line of defense against COVID-19,” said U.S. Ambassador Lana Marks.
“Hand washing with soap is a simple and effective way to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, but for too many people this is not possible,” says Jama Gulaid, UNICEF Representative to South Africa. “This generous support from the United States will go a long way in helping the most vulnerable to be healthier and safer and it is essential that these facilities are properly used and protected by the communities they serve,” he adds.
Construction of handwashing stations began on the 8th of June in Alexandra township in northern Johannesburg, with the goal to build similar stations in 150 locations across the country by the end of August. In addition to further installations in Alexandra and six more handwashing stations in the Hammanksraal area, installations have been completed in Northern Cape, the North West province, and KwaZulu-Natal. Plans are already underway for additional stations in Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng, and Eastern Cape.
UNICEF is working with partners Envirosan and World Vision South Africa on the installations and engaging with communities in the areas to share lifesaving information and messaging on how best to keep children, families and communities safe.
UNICEF is a member of the WASH Technical Team, which reports to the COVID-19 National Water & Sanitation Command Centre. Through this mechanism, local municipalities under the direction of the Department of Water identify the sites in under-served communities and commit to maintaining the water and soap supplies. UNICEF involves local ward counsellors in the handover to help build local ownership and to secure protection of the stations.
Through an All-of-America approach, the United States is providing lifesaving support by coordinating with the Government of South Africa and other stakeholders to identify priority areas for investment. The U.S. government financial commitment to South Africa’s COVID-19 response is over US$44 million (R736 million).