International

USAID makes hand-washing more accessible

New Europe - Lenore T. Adkins, Public diplomacy writer

Washing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but access to soap and water is a challenge for some 3 billion people worldwide.

That’s why the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Water for the World programs, provides water and hygiene products and promotes the importance of the practice, especially today.

In Burkina Faso, a USAID-supported program works with local governments on COVID-19 plans that address the availability of water, sanitation and hygiene services. Through radio announcements and other communications, the program also promotes washing hands with soap.

In Indonesia, USAID has teamed up with partners in 120 communities to install 5,000 hand-washing stations, 900 soap dispensers and 700 water taps. Since March 2020, USAID has collaborated with community health clinics, known as puskesmas, to teach people the importance of washing hands with soap and water through radio jingles and social media posts.

USAID is sharing information about slowing COVID-19 in Nigeria and increasing the water supply to allow hand-washing in public places, such as markets and hospitals. USAID is building on existing work Nigerian government agencies have done to promote hygiene and address COVID-19 by providing technical support for communicating risks. Finally, USAID teams up with telecommunications firms to spread good-hygiene messages to millions of Nigerians.

The efforts are important because 40% of the world doesn’t have access to hand-washing stations with soap and water at home, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Water security, sanitation and hygiene are more important than ever, as the world grapples with COVID-19 and looks to recover after suffering economic harm, according to Maura Barry, USAID’s acting global water coordinator and an official in its Bureau for Resilience and Food Security.

The pandemic has stressed existing water systems and threatened to slow the expansion of water services for the neediest people, particularly some 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Especially as the world recovers from the pandemic, USAID hopes to make hand-washing a habit everywhere while it works to improve access to water services.

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