UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS Engaged in eight African countries, our teams fear an explosion of humanitarian needs linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Access to water and hygiene for the most vulnerable populations remains our priority.
By Thierry Benlahsen, Director of Operations of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL
SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL is present on the African continent with 200 employees, 170 of whom are in the field. For several months now, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on our operations. The problem is that depending on the zones of contagion, from one country to another, the situation is not the same. How can we move around, how can we maintain a presence on the ground, continue to carry out the usual humanitarian operations, most of them emergency operations, when containment measures or border closures are put in place? We are worried that there will be an explosion of needs. We know that the crisis will have unprecedented consequences in sub-Saharan Africa.
THE KEY CHALLENGE OF WATER ACCESS
At the heart of our humanitarian action, access to water and hygiene remains a key issue in this crisis. Without access to water, hygiene and soap, barrier measures against the virus are impossible to apply. For several weeks now, our teams have been reorienting their activities, ensuring that water is available at the most at-risk sites, and integrating awareness campaigns and soap distribution into all their programs around the world. They are devoting a special effort to strengthening infrastructure of health centers, in order to prevent them from becoming contaminated areas. This emergency response is essential to limit the virus impact on already vulnerable populations.
But beyond the emergency, beyond this pandemic, the international community and especially the donors must finally understand that the implementation of access infrastructure projects is essential to ensure that all African cities with medium to large populations have sustainable water systems. These measures are in the global health interest. In Africa, the health and economic costs associated with the lack of basic infrastructure and thus the accelerated spread of the virus will undoubtedly cost three to four times more than the water networks that should have been implanted years ago.
THE EMERGENCY NEED FOR SOLIDARITY
In African countries, 80% of the economy is informal, making it very difficult to enforce containment measures. People have to go out to earn a living. And even when they stay at home, especially in areas of high population concentration, the risk of contamination is extremely high. In the future, the number of cases could be much higher than in Europe and the United States.
Facing this crisis, the emergency is for solidarity to the most vulnerable. At some point, as in the fight against Ebola, some states must decide to take the bull by the horns and push for an international response. This is in the interests of every state of the world and of Europe: because if the epidemic is not controlled today, in one part of the world, it will return.
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Translated from French into English by Marion Tabouret