World Water Day takes on a new meaning this year. We have two main defences to avoid getting sick from Covid 19, says Tally Palmer.
You have all heard the messages. How do they apply in here Makhanda?
Wash your hands more often than you think you need to. Here, on days when we don’t have water, leave one handbasin full the night before, or have a bowl of water ready for hand washing the next day. Washing hands in old soapy water is better than not washing.
Wash your hands with soap for as long as it take to sing Happy Birthday, or to say the Lord’s Prayer.
Soap and water have played a huge role in public health for several centuries. The thing that is hardest is to change is our behaviour. We are not used to washing our hands so often. Handwashing needs to become a new habit. You can put a reminder alarm on your phone, or use memory trick like handwashing before you leave your house and when you come back; after you have touched someone and after you have touched any public surface. But, at least we do already wash our hands regularly, not a brand new habit.
It is much harder to see and be with fewer people, and to keep at a distance from them. South Africans live close to each other. We hug, and touch and gather in large groups. We socialise in public places.
This is a new virus and products used to fight other viruses have not yet been checked. However, products that kill other types of corona virus, like Dettol, might be effective. For a cheaper-clean option, when you are out and about, take a small damp cloth you have dipped in an antiseptic mixture, or have soaped, in a small plastic bag to wipe your hands and the goods you buy. Use a dipped cloth with children – they touch everything and everyone! Shop as seldom as you can. Offer to shop for old people – that are more at risk of getting seriously ill from the virus. Consider praying at home or in small groups sitting far apart.
Luckily we also talk in loud voices at a distance from each other – that will be really helpful now.
In tough times, some contact with people is also important. Many of us have cellphones – use encouraging messages to tell people you care for them and love them.
It has rained. The soils and landscapes around us are not so dry, so water is beginning to seep into our dams. But we still have a long way to go. World Water Day reminds us in Makhanda to keep on with hard work of using as little water as possible.
Celebrate World Water Day by washing your hands and by continuing to use as little water as possible. Wave to and your neighbor and smile. I am grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to keep some water flowing in Makhanda. Thank you.
- Tally Palmer is the Director of the Institute of Water Research at Rhodes University.