Investing in hygiene is important to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and to alleviate many other health problems. Yet millions of people lack the resources or awareness to adopt these life-saving measures. Two AKDN projects in India have been addressing this.
The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Unilever and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office implemented the emergency response Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) initiative across six Indian states. The initiative improved hygiene awareness, education and access to sanitation products and infrastructure. It targeted both rural and urban populations whose living conditions increased their susceptibility to contracting COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Over 2.3 million people in Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh directly benefited.
AKF promoted critical hygiene measures through face-to-face communication, digital interaction, billboards, television and radio; taught over 6,200 frontline workers about infection control measures and installed more than 2,000 soap and handwashing stations.
A social return on investment study showed that for every rupee invested, the programme delivered a return of almost 13 rupees in social value, and 72 percent of the households reported more frequent handwashing due to the availability of soap banks.
UNICEF and Nayara Energy supported the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), AKF and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) to improve access to WASH services in schools, childcare centres and health facilities in Jamnagar, Gujarat. Working with the district government, our agencies introduced behaviour change and hygiene promotion initiatives as well as physical infrastructure improvements to support infection prevention and control.
AKDN used online methods to train 965 frontline education and community health workers on infection prevention behaviours, risk reduction measures, communication strategies, safe back-to-school protocols and vaccine promotion.
AKAH also installed COVID-compliant and child-friendly foot-operated handwashing stations in 97 schools, 113 early childhood development centres and 90 health centres. The stations were branded with proper handwashing, infection prevention and risk reduction messaging and included soap banks and hygiene kits. AKAH trained 900 children and 350 staff on the correct use and maintenance of them.
Overall, the project reached over 26,000 children in schools and childcare centres, and more than 100,000 people visiting health centres every month.