Regular hand washing under running water with soap is said to hold the magic wand to fight against water and sanitation-based diseases like the one the world is currently facing today the almighty Corona Virus Pandemic (COVID-19).
Even though one of the safety protocols propound by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is regular handwashing with soap under running water, there is over 5.5 million Ghanaians still living without access to clean water according to WaterAid Ghana.
In its quest to help government fight against the pandemic, WaterAid Ghana on Wednesday launched a project dubbed Hygiene and Behavior Change Coalition (HBCC) for COVID-19 control.
Addressing the gathering at the launch, the Country Director of WaterAid Ghana, Mr Abdul Nashiru Mohammed, explained that the Project, which was funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and UNILIVER, is a campaign to be carried out in six districts across five regions, targeting over five million people.
The beneficiary communities are: Wa Municipal in Upper West; Bongo and Kassena Nankana West in Upper East; Nanumba South in the Northern; Kwahu Afram Plains North in the Eastern; and Ablekuma Central Municipal in the Greater Accra region.
He said the HBCC campaign under the theme: “Clean Community, Safe Environment,” was to motivate people to practice personal and social protective behaviours, and to complement the Government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
The Country Director of WaterAid Ghana indicated that the HBCC, would be implemented in two phases over a period of nine months and would leverage on WaterAid Ghana’s extensive experience in running hygiene behavior change campaigns, with the first phase focusing on an extensive promotion of five key hygiene behaviours related to COVID-19 using social, digital and mass media channels.
He said WaterAid Ghana acknowledges the fact that tackling COVID-19, requires a concerted effort and a comprehensive package with particular attention to the provision of water and sanitation to make hygiene practice possible.
The campaign, Mr. Mohammed noted, would involve hand washing with soap, maintaining physical and social distancing, wearing masks in public, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces regularly and self-isolation, when experiencing symptoms, to protect others from the virus, saying “we will also install contact-less (Hands-free) hand washing facilities in public locations”.
He explained that the second phase would also support government-led hygiene campaigns for sustained behavior change, while continuing to promote the wider mass media crusade.
Mr. Mohammed lauded Government for its efforts which included the absorption of water tariffs for the first three months following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but called for a consistent equality and inclusion focus, and human rights based approach to shape the response to the pandemic within and beyond the WASH sector.
He said WaterAid was also collaborating with other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Ministries of Health and Information respectively, the Ghana Health Service, Government Allied Agencies, Water and Sanitation for the urban poor, the Media and the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation to implement the project.
On his part the Deputy Minister of Health and Member of Parliament (MP) for Ledzokuku Constituency in the Greater Accra region, Dr Bernard Oko Boye, admitted that the decision of ensuring effective handwashing and observing social distancing were both driven by science.
The Ledzokuku MP therefore commended WaterAid Ghana and all its funding partners for the initiative to drive HBCC as an essential experiment beyond education, to achieve success in preventing and eradicating water and sanitation-based diseases.
Dr. Oko Boye also emulated the numerous efforts being made by his government in terms of the provision of the protective equipment and other safety supplies to all sectors to prevent the spread of the virus and welcomed all other collaborations.
In another development, the Cities and Infrastructure Advisor at DFID, Madam Rubbina Karruna believed the fight against COVID-19 was a collective one, seeing that its impact on less privileged communities are high, and also considering that access to clean water and sanitation services remained crucial in winning the battle.
She pledged the continuous support of the DFID towards the efforts being made by both government and other stakeholders to ensure the safety of all populations against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH