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Now more than ever, we are one

Ji Ni Beseya Project - Credit WaterAid - Basile Ouedraogo

Guy Laliberté, founder of One Drop, on the importance of standing united against the pandemic

March 20, 2020

By: Guy Laliberté and the One Drop Foundation Team

The pandemic we are facing today is turning the world upside down. Influencing all spheres of action, from business, to arts, to international development. Influencing the way we interact, the way we work, the way we live.

When I first founded One Drop, I had a vision of a better world with better living conditions for all. Together with my team, we couldn’t envisage then, that almost thirteen years later, our work on safe water, sanitation, and hygiene would have the widespread critical importance it has today.

One thing was already clear at the time: every single issue facing the world—poverty, education, social justice, economic development, the environment, gender equality, food security, health—all had one element in common: access to water.

As we confront this unprecedented pandemic, the world has come to the realization that handwashing with water and soap is one of the best preventative measures when it comes to saving lives.

Much of the world’s populations do not have access to water, soap, or even toilets. Less than half of health care facilities in the least developed countries lack basic water services1. This not only puts patients and health care providers at risk of contracting COVID-19 but also extends to entire communities.

Imagine being sick or pregnant and needing medical care. Now imagine your local health care clinic without any clean water or soap for the nurses and doctors to wash their hands. Would you go there for help? What if you were a doctor or a nurse? Would you go to work? How about during a pandemic?

Providing vulnerable communities what it takes for proper hygiene is vital. Literally. But we cannot tackle this challenge by simply digging wells and building handwashing stations or toilets. To make sure health practitioners and patients all over the world are empowered to do what is necessary to prevent contagion, we must be united in promoting a behavioural shift as well.

And we must remain open to creative solutions, especially those that are proven to work, and that are endorsed by leading organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

Today, with coronavirus rapidly spreading into low to middle-income countries, we can all agree that the momentum is stronger than ever and that it is time to take action, together.

Lately, we have seen 1.3 billion people in India2 —one fifth of the global population—being ordered to stay inside. The situation in the country was already critical, as 42 per cent of its health care facilities do not have hand hygiene facilities3. Imagine the unprecedented spread of the virus in a population that is already vulnerable. And what about sub-Saharan Africa, where four out of ten people cannot wash their hands at home4 ? We need to increase our actions in these areas.

As we have seen, global health has a direct impact on every country and, more importantly, on the wellbeing of all people. We are all interconnected on this planet and have a responsibility to each other. The need to protect populations all over the world is clearer than ever, and we must be proactive in reflecting on what must come next. There was a before coronavirus, and there will be an after. We must prepare now so that when we finally do reach the “after” period, we are fully prepared to bring about positive change. When that happens, we, as one people and one world will be equipped to more successfully take on the next global health challenge.

Imagine a world where everyone is safe and taken care of when they experience a medical crisis. Imagine a world with no obstacles to basic hygiene, where doctors and nurses can do what they do best: save lives.

In the face of this pandemic, we need to see the world unite. Now more than ever, we need to act together. It is time for all spheres of action, from business, arts and international development to join forces and share expertise and resources. We are all in this together. So let’s work on a better after, together, as one world.

1 WASH in health care facilities: Global Baseline Report 2019
2 New York Times, May 24 2020
3 Joint Monitoring Programme 2019
4 Joint Monitoring Programme 2017

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