Lack of access to safe water aggravates the COVID-19 pandemic in Venezuela

Carlos Lusverti*

Access to safe water and sanitation is a human right, yet millions of persons in Venezuela do not have this right protected or guaranteed in the country.

One of the most important preventive measures that the World Health Organization recommends to avoid the transmission of the SARS-CoV2 virus is for people to constantly wash and sanitize hands. Despite this, millions of people cannot do this in Venezuela.

In 2018, at least 82% of the population did not receive continuous water service and 75% of public healthcare centers reported problems accessing the water supply.  Similar issues have been raised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) with respect to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic elsewhere, for example in India and South Africa. Yet water scarcity remains particularly acute in Venezuela. In 2020, the Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services reported that 63.8% of the population considered the water service to be inadequate in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a mere 13.6% of the population in cities had a regular water supply.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has recently reported that several regions inside Venezuela had limited access to water, indicating that “there [was] a critical need to ensure adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services in health, nutrition, education and protection facilities”. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the country already was facing a “complex humanitarian emergency” (a humanitarian crisis where there is a considerable breakdown of authority that in Venezuela is not due to an environmental disaster or armed conflict), and the lack of access to water affected at least 4.3 million persons.  

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