Heightened relevance of WASH Program in India during COVID-19
While COVID –19 hurled new challenges in the way of WASH services, the nature of the pandemic itself emphasized the importance of basic WASH services and practices.
In particular, the pandemic response helped to transform and teach WASH norms and behaviours for the long-term, particularly handwashing with soap in households, community spaces, healthcare facilities, schools and community-based pre-schools.
A few areas where WASH Program was able to help marginalized populations in COVID-19:
UNICEF launched a swift and tailored response to protect migrant workers on arduous journeys to their distant homes as COVID-19 gripped India. They provided health and hygiene kits to women and children to support them in their onward journeys, ensuring essential protection and nutrition. Help was extended pan India, touching various states –
- In Karnataka alone, 30000+ frontline workers were trained on Wash measures, and more than 12 million people were reached to spread awareness on safe behaviours.
- In Gujarat, 200000 teachers were trained through digital training modules on WASH and help them benchmark their respective schools’ access to WASH facilities.
- In Chhattisgarh, the WASH team joined hands with local NGOs to train volunteers in COVID-19 relief camps on maintaining hygiene and greywater management.
By 2019, according to the latest estimates, the number of people without access to toilets has reduced significantly by an estimated 450 million people. It is crucial to ensure that there is sustained usage of toilets by all at all times.
The UNICEF WASH program continues to support the government of India’s flagship programs like Swachh Bharat Mission and National Rural Drinking Water Program.
For the WASH program, the future priority is to intensify wash services and awareness, especially among children and families from vulnerable communities such as urban settlements and people on the move. From a tactical point of view, the focus areas would be –
- Increasing support to frontline workers and promoting technology & management support.
- Building strategic partnerships with local, skilled organizations and moving towards a catalytical role.
- Strengthening WASH sector for emergency response
The program also continues to advance sanitation, water supply, WASH in institutions in the rural areas and COVID-19 response.
Photos © UNICEF India