On World Water Day, ACT Alliance and WCC urge ensuring access to clean water for hand-washing

Marta Manuel demonstrates hygiene techniques taught to her by staff from ACT member CEDES in Mozambique. Millions around the world need access to clean water to engage in such basic hygiene in response to Covid-19. Photo: Simon Chambers/ACT

On the occasion of the World Water Day 2020, and with deep concern over the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences on people in all regions of the world, especially the poor, the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance reaffirm the responsibility of churches and faith-based organisations to ensure that people have access to clean, affordable, sufficient water to meet their physical and domestic needs, including that of hand-washing.

On 22 March we observe World Water Day.  Since 1993, the UN has declared this day to focus on the importance of the freshwater resources which are fast depleting. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the UN recognition of the human right to water and sanitation.

The new coronavirus has reached over 180 countries with over 200,000 cases of infection and over 10,000 deaths. COVID-19 has the potential to infect at least half of the world’s population with an unthinkable number of deaths if strictest measures are not put in place.

As whole countries have been locked down, the most important advice for prevention of infection is a simple “hand-washing” with soap and water. However, it is not possible for everyone in the world to wash their hands several times a day simply because they do not have access to adequate safe and clean water for drinking, let alone for hand washing. People in refugee camps, for instance, are at greater risk due to lack of sufficient water.

Hand-washing practices to promote good hygiene is the ‘silver bullet’ to prevent an infection from spreading, along with physical distancing from one another. Until the world finds a vaccine for COVID-19, hand-washing with soap and water is our best preventative measure.

“Water is the source of health and well-being and requires responsible action from us human beings, as partners and priests of Creation (Rom 8:19 ff., Rev 22). As churches, we are called to participate in the mission of God to bring about a new creation where life in abundance is assured to all (John 10:10; Amos 5:24). It is therefore right to speak out and to act when the life-giving water is pervasively and systematically under threat.” ‘Statement on Water for Life’ of 9th Assembly of World Council of Churches, Porto Alegre, 2006

WCC and ACT Alliance recognize and affirm the World Health Organization’s guidelines to prevent infection and combat the pandemic and call upon their members around the world to give highest priority to “doing whatever we can do to protect life” and to follow strictly the rules and guidelines from authorities based on WHO guidelines.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General secretary, World Council of Churches

Mr. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria
General secretary, ACT Alliance