The growing importance of WASH and what we can do to help

Amanda Crookes, Gender and Social Inclusion Coordinator explains an integral part of Ripple Effect’s projects, and how we hope to support even more families right now.

While we face uncertain, and for many of us quite isolated, times we have some certainties like running water and fuel to heat and cook, that can be easy to take for granted. But as our African colleagues also start to self-isolate and follow government recommendations, we’re very mindful of the people we work to support and the uncertainties they may face in the days ahead.

Our focus at present is keeping staff and communities safe, but also on how we can continue to support the vulnerable within communities where we work. It's a challenge for Ripple Effect, and all other development organisations across the world.

WASH, or Water, Sanitation and Hygiene is a term used to describe an integrated approach to improving families’ health, by ensuring these basics are in place within their daily lives. It’s an integral part of our projects to help people stay healthy and so they are able to adopt the training in gender equality, sustainable agriculture and enterprise skills that we are better known for.

Our first line of defence is to ensure that our staff and peer farmers , who teach others in their community how to make the most of their land, are fully trained in protocols to keep them safe, and minimise the spread of infection. We will only be able to support families with government approval in each country, and by following their advice.

Just as technology has taken on a more important role in our lives in the UK, being able to reach our colleagues and peer farmers via phones and internet will also dictate how much we can achieve.

The low numbers of coronavirus cases being reported across the six countries where we work may not be an accurate reflection of the situation, and where people already struggle to get access to healthcare, this is of particular concern.

There are of course stories of hope, and we must keep those in mind, now more than ever. Those who receive our e-newsletter, will have last week read about Sylvia and Fred, in Uganda.

Sylvia and Fred's children would often get sick with diarrhoea. However, since receiving hygiene and sanitation training from Ripple Effect, the family keep their latrine clean and ensure there is always a tip tap set up outside to wash their hands with.

Sylvia has watched as the family's overall health has gone from strength to strength, meaning her children have been able to stay in school and can fulfil their potential.

As well as helping families to build their own tip-taps, we support them in building their own rainwater catchment tanks and clean latrines. Combined, these small changes have a huge impact, keeping families healthy and safe from disease.

Sylvia and Fred remind us that promoting the importance of good sanitation and hygiene practices can make a world of difference.

Training in water management is also an integral part of our work across rural Africa to support improved sanitation. And in the face of coronavirus, which is having a profound effect on all of us, this work is now more important than ever.

If you would like to know more about our work, sign up to our monthly e-newsletter at the bottom of this page, to receive updates from our projects across Africa.