COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of good hygiene all over the world, but even before the pandemic hit globally in 2020, hand washing could be the difference between life and death for people living in developing countries who have limited access to safe, clean water and sanitation.
Mum of two Nei lives in Betio in Kiribati, one of the communities where ChildFund New Zealand works, and has seen firsthand the positive shift in local attitudes and behaviours in hand washing and other good hygiene practices.
“When I first heard about the COVID-19 breakout, I felt great fear, worry and panic because I didn't know what to do or how to keep my children safe. Furthermore, our hospital has insufficient supplies and equipment to accommodate people in Kiribati if they are affected.”
ChildFund started community development work in Kiribati over five years ago and was able to quickly jump into action in March 2020 distributing information about COVID-19 to increase awareness, as well as providing families hygiene kits including soap, sanitizer and masks. By late April the team had reach over 2,000 households around Betio with a focus on families and children.
Additionally, ChildFund worked with local youth to build 19 community hand washing stations around Betio. ChildFund has also run water, sanitation and hygiene training around the community, including in preschools.
"I hope for our children to gain a strong education and to grow up healthy and wisely and become great leaders of the country. And, while they grow older, they can pass on this valuable knowledge to new generations."
Nei is delighted her preschool aged son, his classmates and teachers are benefiting from one of the hand washing stations. Her son even washes his hands at home without being asked.
Wider family including parents, guardians and grandparents also use the hand washing station.
"It's become everyone’s habit to go to the hand washing station and wash their hands with soap as they can now easily access water. In addition, my son and his classmates make use of the hand washing station to clean their hands every day after playing and before they have lunch."
Read more information about ChildFund's work in Kiribati here.
Read more about ChildFund's work in water, sanitation and hygiene here.
Help us help more children and families access safe, clean water, sanitation and hygiene here.