We can save lives by washing our hands: a truth which everyone here is again becoming more conscious of in the time of coronavirus is always under discussion in many countries of the global south. Even today, billions of people lack clean water, sanitary facilities and the opportunity to wash their hands. 40 percent of the world’s population have nowhere to wash their hands with soap at home. We are still a long way from achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030.
How SWISSAID helps
Now the coron avirus is making the situation worse. SWISSAID is reacting and making changes to some programmes. We are now focusing even more on health prevention and hygiene measures. We can build here on decades of experience in the fields of clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH: Water, Sanitation, Hygiene).
Solidarity makes us strong
What does that mean in concrete terms? Frequent and proper hand hygiene is the most important measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19. “For us, this means working to enable more frequent and regular hand hygiene by improving facilities and using proven techniques to change behaviour,” explains Daniele Polini, Water & Hygiene Theme Manager.
Rapid help, long-term improvements
We are concentrating on providing assistance in our project regions: Everyone should have access to clean water and sanitation. This also includes ensuring that goods such as soap and cleaning agents are available in sufficient quantities and on a long-term basis. In Bogor in Chad, for example, new facilities for washing hands have been created and disinfectants distributed for cleaning toilets before each use. Thanks to proven cooperation with local partners, such direct actions can be implemented quickly.
A water supply at home? For many people that is still just a dream. SWISSAID is committed to providing access to clean water in the project regions. The picture shows a water point in a village near Bogor.
“It is essential, however, that proper hygiene practices are permanently anchored in society,” explains Daniele Polini. Appropriate public health information that is adapted to local customs must be complied and distributed through the available channels. In Guinea-Bissau, for example, the following recorded message played before every phone call: “To contain the corona virus, wash your hands with soap, Javel water or alcohol. Stay away from places with lots of people.” SWISSAID’s coordination offices are complementing such government measures by working to sensitise beneficiaries to the issue and thus to counteract gossip or propaganda.
Corona virus reveals inequalities
The corona virus shows up inequalities in our world. The pandemic increases existing social pressures. “Combined with lack of access to water, this can have devastating consequences,” says Daniele Polini. Social unrest, conflicts within communities and even the complete collapse of state structures are to be feared. So it is not only in terms of health that washing hands saves lives. If we provide everyone with access to clean water and sanitary facilities, we are also promoting much-needed stability in the countries of the global South.