Wash my hands with what? Global inequalities in resources required to stem the spread of COVID-19

Authors: Susan Elliott*, University of Waterloo, Andrea C Rishworth, Penn State University, Elijah Bisung, Queen's University, Sarah Dickin, Stockholm Environment Institute
Topics: Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: COVID-19, LMICs, Water sanitation & hygeine
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 6:25 AM / 7:40 AM
Room: Virtual 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As we know, the world is facing the first global pandemic of an infectious disease since the early 20th century. And while this virus differs significantly from the 1918 influenza epidemic, one constant remains: such pandemics shine a spotlight on existing global inequities in access to health. In this case, we refer to populations with little or no access to water and sanitation. Given that the primary disease prevention mechanism in the face of this virus is to wash our hands on a regular basis, what chance do we have when there is no water, no soap, and no hope? This paper reports the results of surveys undertaken in Kenya (n=1000) and Uganda (n=400) with vulnerable households, and seniors, respectively. Respondents reported their knowledge of, attitudes toward, and practices related to COVID-19. In addition, measures of psychosocial stress were also documented. While the literature refers to the lack of a major impact of the virus on Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), our results indicate a different and important nuance to the story. That is, while direct effects of the virus (cases, fatalities) may be much lower than expected, the indirect effects - on livelihoods, family structure, gender based violence, psychosocial health, food security - are severe and acute. This paper presents preliminary findings along with recommendations for action.

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