The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has already made inroads into the world’s poorest countries. If not stopped, the consequences could be catastrophic. NCA is responding to the pandemic in many of these countries, focusing on protecting the most vulnerable. Access to clean water and good hygiene is critical to stopping the virus spreading and forms the cornerstone of NCA’s response.
NCA’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme has provided communities with life-saving water and hygiene services for decades. In 2018 alone, 1,5 million people received access to safe water, whilst 500,000 were trained in good hygiene practices. NCA and partners are now intensifying this work to provide communities with what they need to slow down the spread of the virus – the water, knowhow and facilities to wash their hands.
We see that our work with water, sanitation and hygiene contributes to saving thousands of lives, said Norwegian Church Aid’s General Secretary, Dagfinn Høybråten.
Information about COVID-19 has become part of hygiene training, focusing on handwashing and other preventative measures like coughing in your elbow. We are also preparing for increased water delivery to communities, distributing hygiene packages, and ensuring health institutions have access to soap, hand disinfectant and other protective equipment. NCA’s faith-based partners form an integral link in NCA’s response, communicating information to their constituencies and communities, encouraging the closure of religious institutions and places of worship, and tailoring religious ceremonies to meet new national prevention guidelines. As we approach two important global religious events in the coming weeks, Ramadan and Easter, faith actors’ role in stopping the spread of the virus will be paramount.
Our Afghanistan office has provided 50 tents and 50 sets of hygiene items to the health authorities in Samangan Province. The tents will be in hospital areas and will be used to test and isolate Afghans who have been in Iran for Covid-19.
NCA is equipping staff in its offices with knowledge and resources to protect themselves from COVID-19. This is not only part of NCA’s duty of care for its employees, it is also vital for the responsible continuation of our programmes and for implementing an effective response. To date some of the countries where NCA operates remain largely unaffected by the spread of the virus and can continue programme implementation with some precautionary measures in place. The majority however have already had to temporarily reduce and adjust activities. NCA’s headquarters and field offices are continuously monitoring the spread of the pandemic and adjusting their approach accordingly.
Photo: Norwegian Church Aid / Håvard Bjelland.