Washing hands is a decisive measure in the fight against the coronavirus. It is simple and shouldn’t be complicated to implement – so long as there is flowing water. In Niger, where access to clean water is still reserved for a minority, a virus can quickly lead to disaster.
Protective measures against the coronavirus will be integrated within current water and hygiene projects. In various municipalities hand washing facilities (Tippy Taps) will be installed and made accessible. In addition, protective kits will be distributed and the population will be made aware of hygiene rules and prevention measures.
For one in three poeple in southwest Niger, clean drinking water is still just a dream. Only 15% of the population have access to sanitary facilities. 90% of the people live in poverty, 45% in absolute poverty. In addition to the high incidence of diarrhoea, which particularly affects children and the elderly, there is now a new risk of infection with COVID-19: “You can imagine the catastrophic consequences a highly contagious virus can have here in Niger,” says Adamou Moussa Abba, office manager in Niger.
Water and education
In order to prevent rapid spread, SWISSAID, in cooperation with local partners, has responded with emergency aid and has integrated measures against the coronavirus within its current project framework. In N’Gonga and Falwel, 289 so-called “Tippy Taps” have already been installed in 168 health posts: the hand washing facilities are operated by foot, to minimise the risk of infection at public hygiene points. In addition, protective kits with masks and disinfectants have been distributed and the population has been made aware of the dangerous virus through posters and radio messages in French, Haoussa, Zarma and Fulfuldé.
Solidarity makes us strong
Moumouni Salika, Mayor of the municipality of Koygolo in the Kollo department says, “Thanks to the educational messages on the radio station, the population became aware of the disease and was able to adapt their behaviour. Children were particularly engaged and showed great resourcefulness in the production of hand washing equipment. Schoolchildren have become real ambassadors in the fight against the coronavirus.”
Works not only against the coronavirus
Despite all precautions, the situation in Niger regarding COVID-19 remains uncertain. “There is little testing and we expect a high number of unreported cases,” says Adamou Moussa Abba. “It is important that we continue to support and sensitise the population within the framework of our projects in order to prevent a catastrophe.” Integrated into ongoing water and hygiene projects, the measures – unsurprisingly – help not only against the coronavirus. Halimatou Boureimas, a doctor from the municipality of Dantchandou in the department of Kollo, says “there is a decrease in diseases related to lack of hygiene, especially diarrhoea and abdominal pain.”
“There is a decrease in diseases related to lack of hygiene, especially diarrhoea and abdominal pain.”