Latin America shares scientific experiences and responses to ensure the right to clean water and sanitation in times of pandemic.
The concern for the serious situation that the world is currently experiencing with COVID-19, arouses empathy and unity to find quick ways, answers and hopes.
The Sustainable Development Goals are today more important than ever before, as guidelines to face the social and economic impact of this pandemic. Experts in water resources have addressed the right to water and adequate sanitation (SDG 6) in the context of COVID-19. They exchange recommendations adopted by countries in the region, in particular to guarantee access to water in the sectors most vulnerable of the population, including the gender focus.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 65 million people do not have access to clean water and soap. Consequently, prevention through handwashing is a great challenge for the most vulnerable populations, mainly in informal settlements and in the rural area. Therefore, the water sector is considered essential for survival and is one of the few sectors that continues working, even in countries that have adopted the most restrictive measures for the containment of COVID-19.
Undoubtedly, science has become the most relevant tool to find answers and solutions to these difficulties. For this reason, UNESCO has set out open webinars to facilitate the scientific community’s exchange
One of these occasions was co-organized with the WHO America, the Inter-American Association of Sanitary Engineering (AIDIS) and the Conference of Ibero-American Directors of Water (CODIA), in order to join efforts to achieve universal access to water and adequate sanitation in the region. With opening remarks by Ms Lidia Brito, UNESCO Regional Director in Latin America and the Caribbean, Ms Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, and Mr Marcelo Korc, Chief from the PAHO / WHO Unit on Climate Change and Environmental Determinants of Health, began the exchange of experts on water sanitation, management and governance during and after COVID-19.
Ms. Patricia Segurado, PAHO / WHO Regional Advisor on Water and Sanitation, gave a presentation on water, sanitation and hygiene in the prevention of COVID 19. Mr. Miguel Doria, Regional Hydrologist of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Program of UNESCO in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Mr. Martin Méndez, President of AIDIS, pointed out the importance of the contributions of the water sector, but also the challenges it faces.
Governance during and post-COVID19 is one of the fundamental pillars to ensure that water and sanitation reach all populations adequately, an issue that was addressed by Ms. Concepción Marcuello, from the Technical Secretariat of the Ibero-American Conference of Water Directors (CODIA).
Both experts and attendees agreed that it is essential to continue joining efforts to overcome the region's water difficulties, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda in the period that will follow the pandemic, to guarantee the well-being of all.
Water and UNESCO
UNESCO, through its Intergovernmental Hydrological Program, the Centres under the auspices of UNESCO, the UNESCO Chairs and the World Water Assessment Program, supports Member States in their efforts to achieve water security, particularly with regard to governance, the management and development of knowledge and skills.
The current approach affects various topics, including water and climate change, groundwater, glaciers, floods, droughts, urban waters, water quality, ecohydrology, and water education and culture. These issues have a new dynamic - with new relevance and new challenges - in the context of COVID-19.