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Establishing Sustainable Handwashing Water Strategies to Manage the Spread of COVID-19 in the Regional State of Tigray, Ethiopia

Asayehgn Desta, Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development, USA and

Hadush Berhe, Deputy Managing Director and Assistant Professor in Industrial Engineering with Production and Industrial Systems Engineering Streams, Mekelle University, Ethiopia


As the pandemic of COVID-19 spread across the world, many African countries undertook monetary and fiscal policy to stimulate their economies and to provide disaster relief to poor people and companies. In addition to undertaking the monetary and fiscal stimulus packages, the various Ethiopian governments have attempted to shoulder various preventive health-related measures such as staying at home, hand washing with clean water, mask-wearing, and maintaining proper social distancing to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, since Ethiopia, prior to COVID-19, was faced with a fragile economic environment and poor health infrastructure, the demand management policies (monetary and fiscal) that it undertook had starkly limited impact to spark the subdued Ethiopia’s economy.

Similarly, as the costs of the stringent health-related preventive measures applied to Ethiopian situation outstripped their benefits, their effects were less fruitful. For example, rather than serving the Ethiopian people to be released from corona virus attack, the staying-at-home policy that was advocated to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus was seen as means of contributing more to the deaths of poor people from starvation. Also, the maintaining social distancing that was advocated as an effective way of slowing the threat the corona virus had limited impact in Ethiopia because 4 to 5 family members share one room they were subject to being vulnerable to catching COVID-19. Generally made from thorn-down clothes, mask-wearing of mouth and eyes is the only affordable and feasible device that could be implemented to fight against COVID-19 in Ethiopia.

However, since Tigray has limited access to basic hand washing facilities, as a short run strategy, policy makers need to meticulous design a combination of on-site water recycling (water reuse for washing again) or water down cycling (water reuse for lower-quality application such as gardening) and rainwater harvesting (purified using bleach or chlorine for drinking) to reduce water shortage in Tigray and combat the future occurrence and spread of  disease like the COVID-19 that has already claimed many lives. For the long run strategy, however, it is reasonably persuasive to agree with the optimistic forecast made by the World Resources Institute that if every global member is willing and able to spend 1 per cent of the global GDP or around 29 cents per person per day, by 2030, the world community would build resilience of water and make all nations attain water security (Otto, et al 2020) and thereby make Tigray achieve strong commitment to alleviate the adverse impact to fight diseases like COVID19, while staying vigilant of the second wave of infections.   

Key terms: Corona virus, COVID-19, Monetary and Fiscal Policies Stimulants, Staying at home, Hand washing, Mask-wearing, Social distancing