Inequalities in access to water and soap matter for the COVID-19 response in sub-Saharan Africa

Safia S. Jiwani, Daniel A. Antiporta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread rapidly since the first case notification of the WHO in December 2019. Lacking an effective treatment, countries have implemented non-pharmaceutical interventions including social distancing measures and have encouraged maintaining adequate and frequent hand hygiene to slow down the disease transmission. Although access to clean water and soap is universal in high-income settings, it remains a basic need many do not have in low- and middle-income settings. We analyzed data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, using the most recent survey since 2015. Differences in the percentage of households with an observed handwashing place with water and soap were estimated by place of residence and wealth quintiles. Equiplots showed wide within-country disparities, disproportionately affecting the poorest households and rural residents, who represent the majority of the population in most of the countries. Social inequalities in access to water and soap matter for the COVID-19 response in sub-Saharan Africa. Interventions such as mass distribution of soap and ensuring access to clean water, along with other preventive strategies should be scaled up to reach the most vulnerable populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number82
JournalInternational journal for equity in health
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 3 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Hand hygiene
  • Inequalities
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Water and soap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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