KATHMANDU, Nepal – Faced with a major challenge of dealing with the possible outbreak of COVID-19, ward officials of Kispang Rural Municipality in central Nepal are using the lockdown period to intensify the ongoing campaign to create awareness of handwashing with soap and water as a critical preventive tool.
Ward 7 of Kispang, together with the Global Sanitation Fund-UN-Habitat, launched the total sanitation campaign in June of 2019.
“After the 2015 earthquake, we introduced the concept of handwashing with soap after toilet use, along with proper management of sanitation,” said Badri Devkota, a member of Kispang’s Ward 7. “And we intensified it during the Open Defecation Free Campaign beyond 2015.”
During the lockdown, Ward 7’s officials formed a seven-member team to reach out to each household to promote handwashing with soap and physical distancing.
“Since handwashing with soap and maintaining hygiene has been proven as the most effective preventive measures for coronavirus, we have increased the number of households for constructing handwashing stations,” said Mr Devkota.
The team visited each household in the remote and poor indigenous Tamang community to explain the importance of handwashing with soap and sanitation management in preventing the spread of coronavirus. In urban areas, the team used a sound system to spread the message about hand hygiene, physical distancing, wearing masks and self-quarantine to all new visitors to the district.
“We had already initiated the process of raising mass awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap long before the lockdown and, due to our partnership with the local government, the construction of handwashing stations sped up after it got further boosted in the current situation,” said Sushila Paneru, a local total sanitation facilitator.
As Mr Paneru describes, volunteers helped with keeping records on handwashing and the maintenance of sanitation and hygiene. “We provide information on handwashing techniques and collect data by telephone on the hygiene and sanitation situation of each household,” he said.
The ward office is now providing social security allowances for the elderly at their homes rather than at the ward office and has established health desks at the district border so that all the returnees will be well-informed about COVID-19 and what measures need to be taken.
“We have realized that we still need a massive awareness campaign on preventive measures for COVID-19 such as handwashing with soap and physical distancing, and we are hopeful that we will get continued support from our partners,” said Mr Devkota.
To support the local government’s fight against COVID-19, UN-Habitat, the executing agency of the sanitation programme supported by WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund, has started a distance messaging programme as well.
“We have deployed 640 volunteers in 16 districts to reach out to 275,514 households to collect health information and provide information on handwashing, hygiene and cleanliness through mobiles and telephones,” said Sudha Shrestha, chief technical advisor of GSF-UN-Habitat.
“This is not a survey but the communication and messaging system during this lockdown which we intend to continue. The collected information will be updated and analyzed and is anchored to our information system for further intervention or mitigation plan,” she said.
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