JWF News ❘ January 2021: Our Mission to Tackle the Pandemic
【JWF News Vol. 195】13 January 2021
◇ Contents ◇
・Foreword Our Mission to Tackle the Pandemic
Our Mission to Tackle the Pandemic
By Dr. Kotaro Takemura, Secretary General of the Japan Water Forum
At the Start of 2021
Though we have now greeted a new year, I hesitate to celebrate as usual, since people across the world continue to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic.
I had never imagined that I would be put in such a difficult situation in my life. Though Japan is known as “a showcase of disasters”, these disasters were confined to particular regions. This pandemic, however, has spread across whole countries and continents.
The Japanese people are currently suffering from the same disaster that is afflicting people throughout the world. In the past, the Japanese survived many disasters occurring only on their archipelago. This pandemic is a new type of disaster, which we are experiencing for the first time in history.
The pandemic has made us realize that we are living in the same era as everyone else on Earth. I have become aware that humans are one of the weakest creatures in the world, and that bacteria and viruses are much stronger than us.
Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Education
We, the staff of the Japan Water Forum (JWF), are ready to make a bold effort to face this trans-national disaster. But we will not tackle it in our own personal style without any strategy. The weapons to fight the pandemic are water and information about the importance of hand washing.
Since its foundation, The JWF has been working together with people suffering from water-related problems. The JWF Fund supported the construction and repair of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. However, our way of assisting is not just to offer financial and material aid unilaterally.
The following conditions are requirements for assistance:
1. Using local materials
2. Involving local people as main players in the project
3. Having locals do maintenance work themselves
4. Providing education on water, sanitation and hygiene
Candidate sites are selected based on their ability to meet these criteria. During the past fifteen years, we have been involved in water, sanitation and hygiene projects benefiting more than 240,000 people in 32 countries.
When the JWF invited grassroots organizations in developing countries to submit applications for the fund last year, we conducted an applicants’ survey regarding COVID-19. We received 346 applications and the response rate was 99%. The results of the survey were very impressive. We divided the results into two areas: Asia and Africa.
One of the questions was “Do residents wash their hands with soap?”
The answer “no” was 54% in Africa and 37% in Asia. For negative responses, we also asked “Why don’t residents wash their hands?” We were surprised to see the answers. The figure shows the results.
I had guessed that the main reason for not washing hands was that there was no water available. But it was actually because people had not received hygiene education. This answer was fairly common in both Africa and Asia.
I was well aware of the importance of information and education. However, I had never been faced with the harsh reality of a lack of education because I was in charge of infrastructure. I was awoken to the importance of focusing on both education (as a non-structural measure) and infrastructure development (as a structural measure).
A hypothesis has occurred to me: Infrastructure development doesn’t necessarily lead to raising the level of education, but raising the level of education will lead to the development of infrastructure.
The strategy for tackling the pandemic in the water sector is looming on the horizon. In 2021, we, the staff of the Japan Water Forum, will fight against the pandemic in the area of water.
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JWF News Vol. 195 / 13 January 2021
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We wish you to stay safe and healthy during this difficult time.