Practical Action is an innovative international development organisation putting ingenious ideas to work so people in poverty can change their world.


In Bangladesh, with many livings in overcrowded settlements in unsanitary conditions, social distancing will be almost impossible in places where access to soap and water for handwashing was already limited. Our teams fear the worst but have already begun to respond.

We’ve been conferring with our partners and government bodies and our action plans are being finalised. They will combine three stages, to help people prepare for, withstand and recover from the impact of the virus:

  1. Limit the spread. Protect the lives of vulnerable people by improving access to handwashing facilities and supporting front line workers with protective equipment.
  2. Keep essential services running. Work with communities to ensure that water, sanitation and waste systems continue and food supply chains remain intact – and maintain flood preparedness ahead of the approaching monsoon season.
  3. Support longer term recovery. Our work to support people in improving their lives and livelihoods will be needed more than ever. Helping farmers to succeed in the face of climate change. Helping communities harness the power of clean energy to improve incomes and community facilities and making cities cleaner, safer places to live.


Limiting the spread:

  • We’re providing Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar with handwashing kits.
  • we developed contingency plan, working from home, took different flexible decisions around people and culture for supporting staff to manage the situation smoothly and ensure social distancing.

Keeping essential services running:

  • We’re supplying 1,100 personal protective equipment kits to waste collection workers.
  • In Bangladesh and India, we’re working with local governments to keep waste management systems running safely and we will be supporting market traders to maintain essential supply chains, safely.
  • We’ve installed handwashing stands at Satkhira municipality.
  • We’re sending out health, hygiene and behavior change messages through Krishi Call Center


With many years’ experience of working in informal settlements and urban low-income areas in Bangladesh, Practical Action knows that the coronavirus outbreak will have a devastating effect on the lives of people who already have poor hygiene, sanitation, waste and water services. Currently, we are putting together proposals around water, sanitation and hygiene behavior improvement and on agriculture system recovery.

From experience and through our continuous contact with these communities since initiation of the coronavirus pandemic, we have identified the following critical and urgent needs:

  • Access to simple, consistent guidance and messages on hygiene and social distancing for low income communities. There is an urgent need for follow-up communications and support that can help whole communities re-arrange their behaviours.

Practical Action will adapt existing government messaging to the needs of the communities and rapidly initiate a follow up mechanism for encouraging safer practices among the community dwellers.

  • Behaviour change also requires access to handwashing facilities, soap, and water, cleaning products and disinfectants (especially for communal areas such as community toilets and shared water points) and hygiene products.

Practical Action will draw on its existing networks and expertise to set up and manage localised supply systems for vulnerable communities to access soap, water, hygiene and cleaning supplies without creating any distortions to the very local economy.

  • People working in essential services during this emergency – especially those working on water supplies and water trucking, sanitation services including pit-emptiers, waste pickers, street cleaners, community and health promoters and volunteers and indeed market vendors – urgently need protective equipment to keep them and their families safe so they can continue to deliver services to the poorest communities safely.

Practical Action will scale up its provision of personal protective equipment for key workers in the waste management, water, sanitation and hygiene sector as well as market vendors coupled with targeted messaging on hygiene and physical distancing.

What are the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 response till date?

The logistical and technical challenges raised by the coronavirus outbreaks are unprecedented raising an urgent need for learning, knowledge sharing and bold collaboration to find and use appropriate solutions especially as communities isolate, markets scale back, lives and livelihoods and health systems are threatened. We learned a new way of management and most likely the world is moving toward a new normal.

Ingenuity, learning and bold collaboration have been at the heart of Practical Action’s work for more than 50 years. Our firm belief that communities themselves often have the solutions, needing only some additional support to turn it into a reality is particularly relevant and important now. We will collaborate with national government, local councils, local development and community organisations and networks of local and national organisations and communities to learn, share and use learning so that together we can reach the millions who will need this support.