Washing hands frequently remains a key strategy in preventing COVID-19 infection and transmission as we enter the second year of the global pandemic. Yet, across South Africa, there is a lack of access to clean water and sanitation preventing millions of people from following this basic safeguard, in their homes and in their schools.

Woolworths has announced that it is celebrating National Water Week with a R2 million commitment to water security and sanitation in schools. R1 million has been committed by the Woolies Water Fund to the installation of comprehensive water security systems based on rainwater harvesting at schools in water-challenged provinces. A further R1 million will go towards Woolworths’ partnership with the UNICEF WASH programme which installs handwashing units in schools and communities. According to UNICEF, by 2040, one in four of the world’s children will be living in extremely water-stressed areas.

National Water Week runs from 15 to 22 March and the 2021 theme is ‘Water for All’, highlighting not just the importance of conserving this scarce resource, but to also ensure equitable access. Woolworths Education Programme National Manager, Thando Tladi says, “Water conservation and water security is an important aspect of the Woolworths’ Good Business Journey, from our suppliers’ farms through the supply chains to our stores. Our ongoing commitments to improving water security and sanitation at South African schools aims to give children a healthier start in life and promote well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of the very basics of hygiene – washing our hands. It is critical that children and teachers are able to do this at school to keep themselves, and their families and communities safe as we continue to focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our country.”

Over the last two years, Woolworths in partnership with MySchool has funded the installation of 80 handwashing units (56 in partnership with UNICEF’s WASH programme) and 18 rainwater harvesting systems at schools. This year’s commitments will significantly boost that by enabling additional schools in water stressed areas to harvest rainwater sustainably and use it for sanitation, cooking and hydration purposes, as well as for the irrigation of food gardens.

Over the last six years, water has been a key focus of the Woolworths Education programme which has presented 5 780 water lessons in 1782 primary schools, reaching over 1500 teachers and 200 000 children. This year, schools can celebrate National Water Week and World Water Day on 22 March with water lessons and fun water-saving activities that will be provided online and in print, for learning at home and at school.

The Woolies Water Fund is a beneficiary of the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet fundraising programme and recently celebrated its 50th school rainwater harvesting system installation at Emafini Primary School in the Eastern Cape. The rainwater harvesting systems are tailor-made according to each school’s unique needs, incorporating any existing water infrastructure or installing a sustainable, safe water source from scratch where necessary. Customers can help to raise more funding for water infrastructure in schools by choosing the Woolies Water Fund as their beneficiary. At no cost to them, Woolies customers raise funds for the causes they care about every time they swipe their cards.