WaterAid statement: First case of Covid-19 detected in sub-Saharan Africa

6 March 2020

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid UK:

Frequent handwashing with soap and water is one of the key components of controlling the spread of infectious diseases, including Covid-19. However, one in six healthcare facilities globally do not have both soap and water available for doctors, nurses and patients to wash their hands, which can make disease prevention and delivering safe, quality care much more challenging. In addition, about three quarters of people in Sub-Saharan Africa also have nowhere to wash their hands with soap and water in their homes. 

Handwashing is one of the simplest and most effective disease prevention methods available. It’s been shown to reduce cases of all respiratory diseases by 20% and diarrhoea by 30%, and can help healthcare centres be better placed to support a response to an outbreak. If everyone, everywhere had a place to wash their hands with soap and water as often as needed it would go a long way towards helping to contain and prevent the spread of many diseases.