Lifewater Canada’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, 2020, and has focused on:
Education workshops: Hygiene education material was updated to include information on Covid-19. Large workshops with meals were replaced with socially distant small-group training of locally influential men and women who learned effective hand-washing, how to disinfect pump handles and buckets, and how to maintain two-metre distances when possible. In Liberia, where memory of the Ebola epidemic is still strong, people are especially receptive.
Information Sharing: Right from the beginning, we have been deeply concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in Africa. People in upland "grass-hut" villages are sick, but not tested. People in these remote communities die, and are buried the next day since the corpses break-down quickly in the extreme heat. At the same time, communities have access to smart phones and people receive messages telling them that the situation is not severe, the government is just covering their butts, and some conspiracy messages reveal that COVID-19 is "not real". The government in Liberia lacks the capacity to effectively reach out. So in response to their request for assistance, Lifewater is putting up 8' x 8' billboards at the side of highways and running radio spots emphasizing that the pandemic is real and highlighting key actions each person needs to take to prevent COVID spread.
Sewing masks: Patterns for surgical masks provided by Canadian nurses were given to Lifewater teams overseas. Local tailors and seamstresses began sewing masks for the teams to distribute, and patterns to make more masks are being shared throughout program areas.
Super-chlorinated water and soap: Teams are helping to supply soap to rural villages in need. In Kenya, 13 elevated tanks were installed next to high-use wells. Super-chlorinated water is batched in these tanks, so people coming to draw drinking water can also take home some pre-mixed disinfectant water to clean their kitchens and disinfect toilet facilities. Many smaller tanks are being positioned in schools, where children continue to attend.
Repairing Pumps: The biggest impact can be achieved for relatively low cost; repairing a broken hand pump can cost as little as $5, and putting a pump back in service reduces crowding and wait times at neighbouring wells. The team in Haiti continues its active pilot project, repairing about two pumps per day—that’s safe water restored to 6,000 people per week!
New Wells: We continue to closely monitor the situation in our project areas and ensure that our teams comply with directions from local government and health officials. Teams in all our project countries continue to drill wells to reduce the number of people gathering at any one water supply, reduce wait times, and maximize the amount of water available for handwashing and household sanitation. Safe water also helps people avoid complications arising from preventable water-borne disease. Our teams maintain community involvement without direct contact. Community members still assist on site, but during the pandemic local people do not provide meals or housing for the drillers, or work alongside the teams as in normal times.
Projects you can help to sponsor:
If you are interested in helping provide safe water and combat COVID-19, here are the projects that we are supporting overseas: