Covid-19 is now at Africa’s doorstep. We are working to ensure remote rural communities in Ghana and Kenya are equipped to prevent its spread through proper handwashing practices.
The promise of sustainable access to safe water under SDG 6 entails not only the provision of a sustainable solution for safe water but also orchestrating behavioral change in communities towards clean water. The assumption that if a clean water facility exists, people will use it and they will use it right, is incorrect. The behavior of users ‒ women, men, children, the elderly, those living with disabilities, and communities of which they are part ‒ must also be altered so that improved services can deliver the greatest benefits.
In the communities we work in West Africa, the need for this behavioral change is even more dire in the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe. The virus has now penetrated Africa and the number of cases continue to surge. Being a pandemic, it is only a matter of weeks until it will make its way to remote rural communities where we work. While the already over-burdened public health infrastructure in Africa, that cannot cater to a global health emergency, these communities are particularly vulnerable as they are often at the bottom of their governments’ priority lists, owing to their small size (of less than a thousand people).
In line with the spirit of SDG 6, we are working to ensure these communities are not left behind. Not only are we striving to provide sustainable access to safe water, we are also intervening to change community behavior towards clean water sources and personal hygiene practices. Research shows that handwashing levels are dangerously low as 50% people do not wash their hands in sub-Sharan Africa. We address this by delivering thorough WASH trainings to emphasize the need for the life-saving practice of handwashing. Most recently, we have delivered WASH trainings on good water management, safe sanitation and proper hygiene practices in Ninchinso and Corner Boy communities in Assin North District of Ghana.
The Project Maji WASH training manual is typically divided into 6 sub-sections namely: Hygiene Practices, Sanitation, Importance of Clean Water, Sources of Water, Water Contamination and Water Protection. We seek support from WASH experts and students based close to our sites to deliver these trainings, who apply a participatory approach encouraging questions and comments to keep the participants engaged. The use of colorful Project Maji flyers and posters have also proved to be particularly fruitful for this purpose:
2 out of 5 people or 3 billion people around the world lack basic handwashing facilities at home.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women spend at least 16 million hours each day collecting drinking water; men spend 6 million hours; and children, 4 million hours.
Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces.
Having provided sustainable access to safe water to 60,000 people in Ghana and Kenya so far, we believe timely intervention to alter community hygiene practices can curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Therefore, the urgency to deliver these trainings among vulnerable communities is imminent now, more so than ever before. Join us to support Project Maji WASH trainings in remote rural communities in Ghana and Kenya, and save lives: https://bit.ly/3dGMr3B.