WaterAid to empower communities in curbing Cholera, COVID-19

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Rukayat Akanbi, Bauchi

WaterAid Nigeria has said it would empower some communities with context-specific hygiene promotion tools and materials designed to protect them from infectious diseases including COVID-19.

Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere said this while launching the hygiene response programme, Scale-Up Hygiene Project-Phase II to create awareness in preventing the spread of Cholera and COVID-19 outbreaks. Also urging the government to invest in provision of water to curb future pandemic.

WaterAid had launched the COVID -19 response intervention to help vulnerable communities in protecting themselves against the spread of the disease.

Evelyn Mere, while speaking said that the project which is supported by Nigerian Breweries Plc/HEINEKEN Nigeria has its second phase focusing on consolidating on the wins of the first phase and ramping up existing hygiene promotion interventions and campaigns to increase access to improved hygiene, reduce the spread of the virus, and support national and sub-national governments to integrate water, sanitation, and hygiene in their COVID-19 response and vaccination strategy.

“To achieve this, WaterAid will empower communities with context-specific hygiene behaviour change promotion tools, insights and materials designed to help them protect themselves from infectious diseases including COVID-19.

“The project will increase access to non-contact and inclusive handwashing facilities in key strategic locations and deepen advocacy strategies to key government stakeholders to prioritise, integrate and sustain water, sanitation, and hygiene access.

“This will serve as a key preventive method for fighting against disease spread and ensure preparedness against future pandemics. The first phase of the project was successful in reaching and equipping 21 million residents in Bauchi, Benue, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, and Oyo states and in the FCT with context-specific hygiene information, encouraging the practice of good hygiene, using different promotional cues and touchpoints, including national, state and community TV and radio stations,” WaterAid said.

Evelyn said that: “With emerging new variants of the coronavirus, thousands of people are exposed to the risk of contracting the disease. Whilst the world has urgently risen to the challenge of COVID -19 by introducing vaccine administration, every year hundreds of thousands of lives are silently lost because of lack of clean water, decent toilets, and hygiene.

“There is no doubt that urgent actions to sustain access to water, sanitation and hygiene are needed as a long-term strategy to fight against disease spread and ward off future pandemics. With the major achievements recorded from the first phase of the project, we are expecting that the second phase of the project will deliver on strengthening government structures for better water, sanitation, and hygiene access. Having these basic human rights in place helps to stop infectious diseases in its tracks and helps vulnerable communities build back better from economic downturns inflicted by the pandemic.

“The government must respond now to providing infrastructure that sustains water, sanitation and hygiene at all levels, especially given its vital role in preventing disease spread and ensuring pandemic preparedness against future disease outbreaks.”

Also, Sade Morgan, the Corporate Affairs Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc/HEINEKEN Nigeria said: “There is concrete proof that good hygiene habits are critical in the eradication of diseases and, COVID-19 is no different. Heineken is proud to be supporting the phase II of the Scale-Up Hygiene project with WaterAid Nigeria as part of our response to COVID-19.

“By building on the success of phase 1 of the project, we are optimistic that there will be a greater positive impact on the health and general wellbeing of the selected communities.”