With each day that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, the consequences in developing countries become more visible. Millions of people do not have clean water needed to sustain basic hygiene measures. The food situation is precarious and is further exacerbated by climate change. Health systems are also weak, and many people in the countries of the global South have no access at all to medical infrastructure.
We do not yet fully understand the extent of the corona crisis in Africa, South Asia and Latin America, but the affected countries must expect the worst. The fact that the population there is on average younger than in Europe and North America does not outweigh the disadvantages: The poor population's state of health is precarious because of malnutrition and lack of basic sanitation. Many people suffer from pre-existing conditions, and infectious diseases already affect small children.
"Social distancing" is often hardly feasible for people in developing countries; many family members live in the same room, the toilets – if available at all – are shared by several families, clean drinking water is rare. In refugee camps where people live together in very confined spaces, the outbreak of the coronavirus would be even more devastating.
Early education and prevention work are key to preventing misinformation and slowing down the spread of the virus. Helvetas is raising awareness among the population with information campaigns in various partner countries and distributing hygiene kits containing soap and disinfectants as well as mobile hand washing stations.
The development organisation can build on years of experience in the field of water and hygiene. Together with its local partners, Helvetas distributes corona education material and prevention posters that are also understood by people who can neither read nor write.
Numerous further measures are planned in various countries, some of which have already been implemented. In the Rohingya camp in Bangladesh – the world's largest refugee camp – together with our partners Helvetas has distributed disinfectants and hygiene kits for 160,000 people and conducted hygiene training.
In the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger, Helvetas has been working with local radio stations to quickly organise information and prevention campaigns. In addition, Helvetas is distributing hand washing kits and simple hand washing facilities – also in Mali – and supporting the local production and distribution of hand disinfectants and soap.
More information on the Helvetas Website