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Washing Your Hands is a Privilege

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The commercials are constant. I have even seen short videos across my social media timelines demonstrating the most effective way to do it. In this era of the global pandemic, COVID-19, the world is being constantly reminded not only to wash our hands but how to do it appropriately. Somehow, this makes me very thankful for my healthcare science class and internship at a hospital lab when I was senior in high school. I can scrub like a doctor going into surgery.

However, I also know there is another reality because I lived it too. As a little girl I spent a lot of time in rural Alabama at my great grandmother’s house. She didn’t have running water; but there was a pump in her front yard. I was just big enough to work the pump and I remember the days of pumping jugs and buckets full of water to be used throughout the day. Every drop of water we used counted because no one wanted the task of pumping more water from the well. Even that access to water is much more than what many people have in other parts of the world. I wrote about it three years ago in a blog entitled The Thirst Is Real.

I’m reminded of it today. Our inability to ensure adequate infrastructure has the potential to prove catastrophic during this pandemic. It doesn’t matter what country it is, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that, in this world, whatever happens to one has the ability to impact us all.

The World Bank paints a bleak picture of reality. According to the World Bank, 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities. Oxfam details that women and children in developing countries walk Credit: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

3.7 miles and carry 5 gallons every day to bring clean water to their families. Many of us only take a short few steps to our tap. While I could talk more in-depth about the other impacts of water access like economic development and its impact on women and girls, our most pressing issue right now is fighting this global pandemic.

In the United States, we can look within our own borders. For years, California has faced conditions in which residents had restrictive water usage due to drought. Polluted water and outdated infrastructure led to a crisis in Flint, Michigan which led to massive lead poisoning. Residents relied on bottled water for years to maintain their daily life and some remain skeptical about their water being clean.

Personally, I have family in rural Jamaica whose running water has been out for months because the pump that supplies water to their water system is broke. For years, there have been small patches to fix it; but what the government really needs to supply is a new pump. In the meantime, the community has to wait on the water truck for barrels of water. Again, every single use of water has to be monitored.

How can we fight this effectively when everyone isn’t starting from the same baseline nor do they have the best tools to fight?

Collectively, our chickens are coming home to roost. Our disinvestment in adequate water infrastructure in the places that need it most could prove catastrophic during this pandemic. As billions are rightfully being invested to fight this pandemic, we must have that same sense of urgency in solving the water scarcity crisis. It could be the only thing to save us all of us.

Chanceé Lundy is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC where she serves as the Principal Environmental Manager. She received her MS in Civil Engineering and BS in Environmental Engineering. Chanceé is an engineer, author, and community servant as evidenced through her work. She is the founder of Destination Liberation, an international exposure club for young girls and the author of It's Just High School: The Beauty, Pain, and Pressure of High School Life. Lastly, she is a wife and mother of one rambunctious toddler.

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