COVID-19: Sanitation and hygiene for today and tomorrow

What are we doing?

We are keeping our focus on sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health, for those left behind and least able to respond.

LATEST NEWS: We have compiled what we view as the most useful information and practical guidance at this point for our country implementing partners. Alongside a wider set of resources and some of the good practices gathered from our country partners, COVID-19 information and guidance for programmes, it is intended to provide the latest information on COVID-19 and offer practical guidance.

We are contacting our members so that they can share their experiences, opinions and stories.

We are looking after our staff and following advice, working from home and maintaining social distancing. And, importantly, we are talking to the international development community, our partners and donors about why a focus on sanitation and hygiene should not take a pandemic.

GSF-supported Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) handwashing campaign to contain COVID-19: In the Wadata and New Garage neighbourhoods of Makurdi, children participate in a step-by-step demonstration of proper handwashing techniques. © United Purpose 

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Our countries' stories

Like many of us, our in-country partners are observing government and employer directives to "stay at home". This means that regular community-based activities are likely disrupted until the situation changes. Yet much is still being achieved.


  • The Government has suspended all non-essential sporting, cultural, political, festive and religious events.
  • WSSCC’s Executing Agency, MCDI, is taking the necessary measures to ensure staff safety.
  • The EA is participating in the national COVID-19 response committee, led by the Office of the President.
  • The programme is responding to the Ministry of Health's request to provide handwashing stations and soap to the health care facilities.
  • The EA is part of the WASH Coalition to disseminate messages.


  • Through WSSCC's National Coordinator, support is provided in line with the government-led National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19.
  • Proper handwashing in health care facilities is being promoted and soaps distributed to 18 hospitals and 45 community clinics.
  • Messages on COVID-19 and the importance of good hygiene are spread through dissemination of leaflets, posters and other IEC materials in communities and health care facilities. An estimated 128,000 people will be reached through this messaging.


  • The Prime Minister heads the National Commission for Combating COVID-19.
  • WSSCC-supported Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (CRSHIP) is focusing on disseminating Government COVID-19 messages via IEC materials and radio announcements.
  • As part of the response plan, CRSHIP is assessing and improving the handwashing standards in 111 health care facilities in 2 target provinces.
  • 1,352 households are included in a handwashing and soap promotion campaign.


  • WSSCC’s Executing Agency, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health to implement the national COVID-19 response via the promotion of handwashing through TV, radio and demonstrations of handwashing at health care facilities, schools and community places.
  • Through the EA, WSSCC is focusing on hygiene promotion - handwashing with soap - in communities and on equipping 2,000 schools and 400 health facilities with handwashing stations, designing new facilities accessible to people with disability.
  • Work at the community level is continuing, with modifications to delivery approaches. The verification of Open Defecation Free Status (OSF) is used as an opportunity for COVID-19 message promotion.


  • Through WSSCC's National Coordinator, support is being provided towards activities under the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Response Task Force on hygiene promotion messaging to 60,000 street families of Addis Ababa and on provision of solid waste collection points. In addition, handwashing stations and messaging in support of Ministry of Health's isolation and quarantine sites in Addis Ababa are being provided.
  • Through its Executing Agency, ESHIP is focusing on IEC production and dissemination in prisons, workplaces, bus and train stops, hotels, health facilities and mass media.
  • WSSCC is providing technical support to Implementing Partners as well as to sub-national government to develop response plans. The programme has also supported for the assessment of WASH in quarantine centres.


  • WSSCC's societal engagement partners, GIWA and Youth Ki Awaaz, have been using their social media to send out a series of messages on preventing the spread of COVID-19
  • WSSCC is supporting the Government of India on integrating COVID-19 in the national capacity building module on ODF-plus training for 600,000 swachhagrahis (front line workers)
  • WSSCC is supporting the UNRC in undertaking a socio-economic assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable population groups. WSSCC and FANSA have been tasked to focus on people with disabilities and sanitation workers.
  • A Rapid Action Learning (RAL) webinar on COVID-19 was held in collaboration with Sanitation Learning HUB, FANSA and RSC-SACOSAN with over 50 participants from eight South Asian countries.
  • Living under lockdown conditions makes access to MHH difficult. WSSCC has developed a MHH booklet to be distributed to women to aide their MHM in a quarantine situation.


  • WSSCC’s Executing Agency, AMREF is focusing on hygiene promotion - handwashing with soap  - campaigns and supporting mass communication of national COVID-19 messages.
  • AMREF has provided handwashing stations in markets, public transport stations, police stations and is supporting 280 healthcare facilities with the distribution of handwashing devices, soap and personal protective equipment as well as training for health care workers.
  • AMREF is Chair of the Sanitation Promotion Technical Working Group assigned to mobilize sanitation and hygiene stakeholders to advocate participation in the COVID-19 response.
  • WSSCC is providing support to counties to develop response plans.
  • WSSCC’s National Coordinator has been re-programming the 2020 workplan with focus on handwashing promotion in Mukuru, Nairobi.


  • "Miaramanonja", a Government campaign to combat COVID-19, is broadcast daily on TV and radio.
  • WSSCC's Executing Agency, MCDI, is working with Ministry of WASH to promote COVID-19 preventive measures on radio, social media and sharing via posters and flyers to 150 schools. Through MCDI, WSSCC is also providing continuous technical support to Implementing Partners and helping sub-national governments to develop response plans.
  • Handwashing facilities are being established in in Antananarivo and Toamasina.
  • Activities at 55 healthcare facilities are focusing on infection prevention, hospital waste management, promotion of key messages to fight COVID-19 and the establishment of handwashing facilities.


  • UN-HABITAT is part of the national WASH Cluster and has been given the responsibility to assess health care facilities in 2 Provinces (out of 7) and their preparedness for COVID-19.
  • WSSCC's Executing Agency, UN-Habitat, is working closely with the Ministry of Water Supply and GSF target municipalities (rural and urban) for COVID-19 response activities, which include the dissemination of messages on handwashing and COVID-19 remotely via local radio and TV.
  • A community messaging and information system is being put in place in 50 Palikas ,  to provide accurate and updated information on COVID-19 to all inhabitants.


  • WSSCC’s Executing Agency, United Purpose is actively promoting good hygiene behaviour on social media. Radio jingles and songs will highlight the importance of handwashing.
  • The EA is working in Benue and Cross River States to promote hygiene messages on COVID-19 at the community level.
  • Through the EA, WSSCC has been working with Government and other partners for the national and sub-national coordination of the COVID-19 response. The focus is now on building capacities of the Implementing Partners.
  • As part of its reprogramming, the EA will also work on the assessment of WASH in health care centres and the installation of handwashing facilities.


  • WSSCC's Executing Agency, Plan International, is working with Government partners on COVID-19 hygiene promotion campaigns in communities, 93 health care facilities and 300 schools. The production and distribution of IEC materials is being supported, including special braille products for people with visual impairments.
  • The focus is on promoting and providing handwashing stations with soap at meeting points such as at churches and mosques and working with Natural and community leaders to help share messages.
  • In health care facilities, personal protective equipment is also being provided as well as trainings on COVID-19 response for health care workers.
  • Through the EA, WSSCC is providing continuous technical support to Implementing Partners and helping sub-national governments to develop response plans.
  • The National Coordinator has also been re-programming the 2020 workplan with a focus on People with Disabilities.


  • On 1 April, the Government declared the state of health emergency for 3 months announcing new measures under the COVID-19 response.
  • Following exchanges with the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, UNICEF Togo, WSSCC's Executing Agency, is reorienting a part of its workplan to respond.
  • UNICEF Togo is providing technical support to Implementing Partners to adapt hygiene promotion messages under COVID-19, with specific attention to triggering for handwashing with soap and water.
  • UNICEF Togo is using multi-media communication to inform, educate and raise awareness on preventive measures including the distribution of messages developed by WHO Africa Regional Office.


  • Government has established a COVID-19 National Task Force headed by the Minister of Health.
  • Call centre and information web portal has been established.
  • Through its Executing Agency, the Ministry of Health, WSSCC has provided continuous technical support on COVID-19 response to Implementing Partners and to sub-national government.
  • The EA has reprogrammed its activities with a focus on 997 health care facilities. It is working on hygiene promotion messaging and the provision of handwashing stations and soap.
  • The National Coordinator has been re-programming the 2020 workplan with a focus on handwashing in informal settlements.

Watch our message from our Executive Chair, Ms Hind Khatib-Othman

Safe sanitation and hygiene are key to preventing and managing the outbreak of many deadly infectious diseases including cholera, diarrhoea, Ebola and now, Coronavirus. With no vaccine or cure, regular handwashing with soap is one of the most important ways to prevent or reduce the spread of  COVID-19.

Sanitation and hygiene related loss of productivity, as with the COVID-19 pandemic, can cost countries billions of dollars. It can also cost a household its livelihood and means of survival. There is a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal target for sanitation and hygiene, SDG6.2, but progress is lagging and lacks urgency.


  • more than 4 billion people globally do not have access to safely managed sanitation services (the SDG indicator) and 3 billion lack access to basic handwashing facilities at home
  • nearly 9% of the world’s population still practice open defecation
  • 1 in 3 schools and 1 in 5 health care facilities do not have basic sanitation and hygiene services.

Yet, at the current trajectory, the SDG 6.2 indicator of safely managed sanitation will not be realized until the 22nd century. And when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the situation of these people will likely be no better.

The challenge is immense, and we applaud all governments for acting - as custodians of public health, as donors and members of the international community - and for responding to the COVID-19 emergency. We also recognize the importance of investing in vaccine development. But we also ask that collectively we do more.

That is why we are calling for a new Fund dedicated to sanitation and hygiene, dedicated to preventing future pandemics by investing in SDG6.2, in sanitation and hygiene systems and services, dedicated to those left behind, and least able to respond.

We, like others, want to help keep you informed

What should I know?

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans; COVID-19 is the newest.
  • COVID-19 is characterized by fever, tiredness, and dry cough.
  • Symptoms are usually mild. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. About 80% recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
  • Some people are at more risk than others including older people, and those with underlying medical problems.
  • The virus passes from person to person, spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales passing small droplets. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

What can I do?

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water, or an alcohol rub.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. Follow guidance provided by your local health authority.