COVID-19: Global Supply Chain Resilience Relies on Soap & Water for Workers

Workers at a ready-made garment factory wash hands having
learned about importance of handwashing through hygiene behaviour
training. Narayanganj, Bangladesh, 2020. Credit:
WaterAid/Drik/Parvez Ahmad

By Ruth Romer
LONDON, May 22 2020 (IPS)

As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions across the globe start to be
relaxed, the collective conversation has shifted towards plans for
a ‘new normal.’

With the
IMF
predicting a three percent dive to global GDP in 2020, the
biggest economic downturn in almost a century, global corporations
are considering what this means for them, and how they can safely
re-establish their suspended operations.

Regular handwashing with soap and physical distancing are vital
to prevent the spread of infection and should form the foundation
of any plan to resume work.

Yet in the world’s poorest countries, which are home to
millions of workers employed in apparel and agricultural supply
chains, implementing these measures will be a huge challenge.

Unavoidable physical proximity coupled with a lack of soap and
water for workers to wash their hands – and even a lack of
knowledge about when they should be doing so – mean that the
threat posed to business by the pandemic is far from over.

Many of these countries have fragile economies, which make
implementing COVID-19 resilient water, sanitation and hygiene
(WASH) solutions even more challenging.

The
ILO
has called for employment policies to predominantly focus
on important employment and income protection mechanisms in an
attempt to prevent vulnerability to poverty.

An improvement to labour standards must also include progressive
and equally prioritised action with regards to the health and
hygiene of workers. If access to clean water and good hygiene
facilities are not considered, not only will millions of lives be
at risk, but businesses will face significant challenges in
re-establishing operations.

Global supply chains will only survive if businesses take action
when it comes to hygiene – the health of tea pickers, farmers,
artisans, and textile producers and other supply chain workers in
the global south, underpin the success of businesses in a post
COVID-19 world.

With one in ten people globally lacking clean water at home and
one in four having no decent toilets, it’s vital not only to
consider not only the factory and field, but beyond the operational
fence line, to the communities where workers live, to reinforce
workplace resilience.

Workers at a ready-made garment factory wash hands having
learned about importance of handwashing through hygiene behaviour
training. Narayanganj, Bangladesh, 2020. Credit:
WaterAid/Drik/Parvez Ahmad

WaterAid has longstanding relationships with a number of apparel
factories in Bangladesh, where we have worked with partners to
provide water, sanitation and hygiene access to workers, and on
intensive hygiene behaviour change campaigns for both those
employed in the factories, and the surrounding communities.

Since the pandemic outbreak, we installed additional handwashing
facilities and delivered a COVID-19 specific hygiene campaign
reaching more than 20,000 workers within one week. We continue to
work closely with factory management to enable their safe return to
operation post lockdown.

Action on water, sanitation and hygiene has the potential to
safeguard companies against operational, reputational, regulatory
and financial risk in the short-term response to COVID-19 and build
the foundation for vital long-term resilience against future
shocks.

For companies with global supply chains who have experienced
immense logistical and financial disruption, the intersection
between workforce health and economic prosperity has been made
abundantly clear.

Globally, it is estimated that every dollar invested in clean
water, good hygiene and decent toilets returns $5.50 in increased
productivity.

As a partner of global governments in their fight against
COVID-19, WaterAid has a global footprint and four decades of
expertise within the sector and is offering to develop bespoke
guidance, tailored to businesses who approach them.

WaterAid has launched its guidance
Prioritising hygiene for workforce health and business
resilience
and is inviting companies to work with them to bring
sustainable changes within their supply chains that will improve
resilience and productivity.

To discuss water, sanitation and hygiene management strategy and
bespoke materials tailored to your company, contact corporate@wateraid.org.

The post
COVID-19: Global Supply Chain Resilience Relies on Soap & Water
for Workers
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ruth Romer is Senior Private Sector Advisor,
WaterAid

The post
COVID-19: Global Supply Chain Resilience Relies on Soap & Water
for Workers
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
COVID-19: Global Supply Chain Resilience Relies on Soap
& Water for Workers