A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction and Urban Resilience (IDRRUR) has called upon the Nigerian government to scale up COVID 19 preparedness, fix national water systems, and mitigate economic crisis amongst a group of informal essential water and sanitation service providers and avert looming disaster.
The informal essential service providers identified by the group include water vendors, water kiosks, plumbers, septic tank service providers, waste pickers and collectors etc. who provide essential services even at the period of total lockdown. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps millions of people home and many businesses shuttered for social distancing, hundreds of these essential workers are still providing these services in order to keep us safe and healthy while at home. They are on the frontlines against the coronavirus, vital to our public health and economic survival.
In a press release signed by the group’s Board Chairman, Dr. Joachim Ezeji, the group noted that unfortunately, many of these group of workers are neither unionized nor employed in the public sector, and thus generally have very low wages, little or no insurance coverage, and other protections.
IDRRUR therefore called on government not to overlook foundational investments that can help the economy regain its momentum, especially those on the water, sanitation and hygiene aspects of public health and economic growth.
For example, it noted the generally high maternal and child mortality rate especially of children under five in Nigeria, and emphasized on the need to promote the adoption and practice of good hygiene as one of the key aspects to securing the health status of populations affected by crises beyond their abilities. It further noted that people who lack access or not practicing proper hygiene are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses, and that the impact of hygiene promotion and washing of hands with soap has wide health implications, as hands are vectors that can transport disease agents from humans to humans, directly or indirectly.
IDRRUR further argued that because COVID-19 can be transmitted by contacting infective droplets and touching our noses, mouths, and eyes (or vice-versa), that hand washing with soap should be identified as one of the most critical actions for stopping its spread amongst people whose livelihood and sustenance is wholly dependent on either providing water or sanitation services. It noted that the ability to wash hands contributes to maintaining the dignity, human rights, mental health, safety and security of an affected population.
IDRRUR pointed out the need to begin to explore solutions, not just on the short-term, but also take steps that will set us up for long-term success. These include key reform investments in the water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, which has long struggled with a lack of SMART reform objectives, clear program structure and overall Theory of Change driving its mission. He noted that the current crisis provides an opportunity to re-think and restructure system resilience at its core. Noting that additionally, this moment offers an opportunity that we may not see again anytime soon: the chance to jumpstart long-term WASH infrastructure rehabilitation and the transformation of careers for thousands of WASH workers nationally.
The organization, IDRRUR works to provide effective, long-term solutions to disaster risks, especially the development of resilience enhancement actions in order to build adaptive capacity, reduce vulnerability, and bolster resilience. It has a reputation of developing community; ward and city level resilience enhancement actions and capacity building for disasters, such as COVID 19, as well as implementing prioritized resilience actions in vulnerability hotspot communities.