Covid-19 and barriers to safe water and sanitation among people experiencing homelessness in Mexico City

Authors: Carla Liera*, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sarah Dickin, Stockholm Environment Institute , Alexia Itzel Moreno , El Caracol A.C., Luis Enrique Hernandez, El Caracol A.C., Gerardo Rodriguez, El Caracol A.C.
Topics: Latin America, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Homeless, handwashing, vulnerable groups, COVID-19, access, discrimination, sanitation, water, soap, toilets, attitudes, practices, health, NGO, qualitative re
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


Access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) plays a fundamental role in protecting health, which has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Good hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing with soap, are key to preventing the spread of disease but are only possible when water and soap are reliably available and affordable. In Mexico City, COVID-19 has presented a major challenge for people experiencing homelessness who relied on local informal water vendor businesses and local restaurants as their main water source, as many have closed as a result of the pandemic. This study sought to understand barriers to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for people experiencing homelessness in, Mexico City. The study was conducted in collaboration with El Caracol A.C., a NGO that contributes to the visibility and social inclusion of homeless people in Mexico City through research, health campaigns and advocacy. As part of the pandemic response, El Caracol initiated programs designed to address the right to health of homeless people such as providing barrels of water and soap for handwashing. A survey of 150 respondents was conducted during these activities using mobile data collection tools, while following El Caracol’s existing COVID-19 safety protocols for interacting with the target population. We report findings according to the following themes: discrimination linked to accessing safe water, sanitation services and hygiene facilities due to Covid-19 lock-downs; knowledge, attitudes and practices linked to WASH and COVID-19; and WASH-related coping mechanisms used by the respondents to deal with reductions in access.

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