Can you imagine not having clean water or soap for handwashing during this pandemic?
This was the reality for many communities in rural Africa. Recognizing the risk this posed, we launched an emergency response in March to address this issue.
Our Dispensers for Safe Water team rapidly compressed three months’ worth of program deliveries into just two weeks to ensure the communities we serve would have uninterrupted access to safe water if logistical networks shut down.
At the same time, we purchased soap and disinfectant from suppliers in major cities, and rented a fleet of trucks to transport them to our field offices. From there, we utilized our existing network of circuit riders and promoters to ensure that this essential supplies was delivered to even the most remote communities.
Our circuit riders are normally responsible for delivering chlorine via motorbike, to rural villages that would otherwise be almost impossible to reach. In the wake of COVID-19, these riders began transporting thousands of tons of soap and disinfectant in addition to chlorine.
Promoters are critical to the success of Dispensers for Safe Water. Volunteers elected by their communities to stock, maintain, and guide the use of their local chlorine dispenser, promoters were asked to go beyond their normal duties and distribute soap and disinfectant to individual households within the community. Over 50,000 of these volunteers rose to the challenge.
We also conducted training for promoters on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention strategies (such as good handwashing practices and social distancing), and worked with them to identify frequently touched places in their area. Promoters then took responsibility for disinfecting these surfaces 3–4 times per day, and for distributing soap and key messages to households in their community.
Between March and July 2020, we delivered over 924,000 liters of chlorine for treating drinking water; over 3 million kilograms of soap for handwashing; over 99,000 liters of disinfectant; and nearly 44,000 informational stickers to promote good hygiene practices.
We are now focused on repairing and replacing dispensers and replenishing chlorine stocks after the initial COVID-19 disruptions. By the end of October, we will have repaired or replaced over 5,000 dispensers and delivered approximately 500,000 liters of chlorine; this will keep all of our 27,000 dispensers stocked and able to provide safe water until the end of January 2021.