Handwashing is not just a question of etiquette, it can save lives. As the coronavirus sweeps through African countries Caritas Niger is ensuring parishes, communities, health centers, and schools have the means to protect themselves against the pandemic through high standards of hand hygiene.
There are challenges to keeping hands clean in a country which is mostly desert and where clean water is scarce. In addition, towns and cities are overcrowded and people migrate a lot internally and externally for work, raising the possibility of spreading infections.
By the beginning of July 2020, there were 1,081 cases of COVID-19 with 68 deaths in a population of over 22 million people in Niger.
Caritas Niger is focusing its prevention efforts on the Archdiocese of Niamey and the Diocese of Maradi – home to the largest and second-largest cities in the West African country and covering a surface area of 200,000km2 and 1 million km2 respectively.
One of their most recent deliveries was to Mariama School in Niamey just after schools reopened at the beginning of June following lockdown. Caritas gave the school 20 handwashing stations, 156 bottles of hand sanitizer, 200 liters of liquid soap, and 3000 masks.
At the handing over ceremony, the director of the school Thierry Namata said, “This gives a boost to our efforts to protect our students from COVID-19 and it will help us keep everyone safe. This delivery ensures that our school can respect the hygiene measures necessary so students can study in safety.”
The school delivery was just one part of a €100,000 three-month-long program which will help over half a million people. A major focus will be on ensuring communities have the means to maintain hygiene measures, but there will also be a grassroots awareness-raising campaign and distributions of dry food rations and money to buy fresh food to families who have been pushed further into poverty by the pandemic.