WaterAid Bangladesh is an international development organization committed to making clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene a reality for everyone, everywhere by 2030.
Programmatic interventions in response to COVID-19
The link between good hygiene and COVID-19 prevention makes it incumbent for WaterAid as a WASH agency to be engaged in various awareness raising and preventive measures to limit further spread. WaterAid having more than 30 years’ experience in hygiene behaviour change is well positioned to leverage its expertise in supporting COVID-19 response. We have been focusing on handwashing and hygiene as a first line of defence and helping individual and communities take preventive measures since the beginning of the crisis.
WaterAid Bangladesh launched the #FightCoronaUnited campaign with a view to sensitise individuals and communities on COVID-19 preventive measures. This includes programmatic activities such as the installation of context-specific handwashing devices as well as social media campaign for a wider reach. The major activities and progress as of 20 July 2020 are highlighted below:
Reaching the unreached
WaterAid emphasizes targeting the highly vulnerable people, such as slum dwellers and people in climate-prone areas with limited WASH facilities, as part of programmatic interventions. The interventions include installing handwashing devices at strategic points of slums, distribution of hygiene kits, disinfection of WASH facilities, community awareness raising, and others. WaterAid has also published easy-to-follow manuals on context-specific handwashing devices for both urban and rural areas to enable others to set up their own handwashing devices.
Despite the launch of several mobile-based apps on coronavirus situation by the government, none of them are catering exclusively to slum dwellers – who are one of the most vulnerable in the fight against corona. To assist the government in COVID-19 surveillance, WaterAid has developed an innovative digital solution especially designed to addressing the needs of slum dwellers, in partnerships with WHO, IEDCR, a2i, DGHS and UNDP. This App will help early detection of suspected patients, linking them with health services and equip slum dwellers with relevant pictorial messages and essential WASH information.
WaterAid engaged youth volunteers in educating people on hand washing in public toilet premises through the Youth for SDG6 platform, we envisioned to create and share knowledges on aspects of COVID-19 nationwide. 160 WASH-trained youth volunteers in Khulna and Rangpur are also active in campaigns in their communities.
WaterAid in partnership with WHO, IEDCR, DGHS, DPHE and others continue to work to enhance sector capacity and facilitate knowledge sharing for COVID-19 response. WaterAid worked with Al-Markazul Islam at MOHFW’s request to categorically review the guideline developed by Islamic Foundation and ensure the safety and preventive approaches for staff assigned to burial service of COVID-19 dead bodies. WaterAid also responded to a request from IEDCR and provided safety equipment to the health care professionals providing treatments to COVID-19 patients.
Future outlook and recommendations
Thinking long term: making handwashing a ‘norm’
WaterAid is looking beyond COVID-19 crisis to ensure handwashing habit is sustained and is not limited to the fears of coronavirus. We will continue to advocate and campaign that handwashing with soap at critical times has a lifetime health benefit. It is one of the most cost-effective preventive health interventions. There is a lack of tailored messaging and interventions catering to vulnerable communities. A need for collective approach that engages not only the government, but all other institutions and everyone in the society for making handwashing a norm forever is a demand of the time. WaterAid will have to pursue the Government and other development partners to support individuals, communities and institutions with the motivation, guidance and funding for creating and enabling environments which includes facilities of handwashing stations, soap and water to ensure that it becomes a social norm everywhere even beyond COVID-19.
The last mile is far but not invisible
Bangladesh needs to accelerate the fight against COVID-19 holistically and prepare for its next wave in the future. Currently, 47.9% population in Bangladesh have access to safely managed drinking water services, only 64.4% have access to basic sanitation services and 74.8% have access to handwashing facility with water and soap (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics). To confront the deeply ingrained inequalities in WASH sector which will exacerbate after this pandemic, there is a critical need to accelerate efforts in making water and soap available and easily accessible for all during COVID-19 and beyond.
For more details of WaterAid’s COVID-19 response, please refer to: https://www.wateraid.org/bd/covid19