Putting purpose at the core of our business, we continue to support UNICEF in its efforts in India. Millions of children have benefited from UNICEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in India over the 15 years of our cooperation with UNICEF Finland.

The importance and need of the WASH program were even more evident while the world suffered the turmoil of a global pandemic in the past years. India is among the worst-hit countries with sobering numbers of infections, close to 30 million, and over 350000 deaths (and counting) due to COVID. As the country still tackles the COVID-19 crisis, the UNICEF WASH program helped communities build a resilient and inclusive recovery and response.

65000 women were trained as COVID-19 warriors to protect urban slums in Andhra Pradesh, India

‘‘My children question me why I need to go out every day when the district is a red zone’’ – Lalitha, a Front-line worker, trained IPC (Infection Prevention and Control) warrior.

Launching concentrated action to contain the spread of infections among urban slum families, the UNICEF Wash Program trained 65000 women as COVID-19 warriors to reach 2.3 million urban households. Women groups like Lalitha’s have been reaching out to over 110 Urban local bodies on risk communications and Infection Prevention and Control to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Under the WASH program, these groups were provided structured online training to create a holistic understanding of infection prevention and control, key hygiene behaviours and managing psycho-social stress during the lockdown period.

 

“It is difficult to walk long distances with no transport available, but at the end of the day, the satisfaction of helping the people and families makes all the difference,” Lalitha says with a huge smile on her face.

Lalitha Kumari, stepping out for a long day of work in  Andhra Pradesh to do her daily visits to shelter homes for the homeless and urban slum dwellers. Lalitha is a key facilitator in the urban development department of the state government and has over 4000 urban slum families under her supervision.

 

 

Heightened relevance of WASH PROJECT in COVID

While COVID –19 hurled new challenges in the way of WASH services, the nature of the pandemic itself emphasized the importance of basic WASH norms and practices. A few areas where WASH Program was able to help marginalized populations in COVID-19:

  • Launched a swift and tailored response to protect migrant workers on arduous journeys to their distant homes as COVID-19 gripped India. Health and hygiene kits were provided to women and children to support them in their onward journeys, ensuring essential protection and nutrition.
  • In Karnataka alone, 30000+ frontline workers were trained on Wash measures, and more than 12 million people were reached to spread awareness on safe hygiene behaviours.
  • In Gujarat, close to 200000 teachers were trained through digital training modules on WASH to enable them to benchmark their respective schools’ access to WASH facilities.
  • In Chattisgarh, the WASH team joined hands with local Non-Government Organisations to train volunteers in COVID-19 relief camps on maintaining hygiene and greywater management.

Notably, the pandemic response helped to transform and adopt WASH behaviours for the long-term, particularly handwashing with soap in households, community spaces, healthcare centres, schools and community-based pre-schools.