In an effort to keep you updated about how the people of Haiti and Honduras are doing during the continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve asked our teams to share. Here are their updates:
In collaboration with PWW’s educational partner, CAWST (Centre of Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology), the PWW Honduras team is working to develop radio messages that will promote the importance of washing hands and practicing safe hygiene.
The team is also working on developing virtual training workshops, including one for TANDAS, the Honduras government program focused on water, sanitation and hygiene training and monitoring; a webinar about how to make soap; and a Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) webinar that will include how to make reusable resources. The team will also be incorporating more information about safe water storage practices in their outreach and training efforts.
The situation in Honduras is becoming increasingly difficult, as Hondurans are beginning to struggle with limited food and water due to the markets not being open.
Oscar Andino, PWW’s WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Training Manager in Honduras, shares this story…
“When I was young, I never thought I would live through a hurricane and a pandemic. I always thought…’we are living in the 21st century, these things cannot happen.’ But it has happened. Many people have become aware that washing their hands and having healthy hygiene habits can make a huge difference.
Right now, in Honduras, most people are in their home. I can hear some vehicles outside of my house…mostly people looking for open markets so they can buy groceries. The first few days were very difficult because the government imposed a total lockdown on the country. Nobody could go outside. Just emergency units. This lockdown didn’t give people time to buy groceries. Last Thursday, the government gave 8 hours for people to go out and buy food. A lot people didn’t go because of fear of getting coronavirus. The people that did go out kept their distance from others or had a mask on to avoid getting the virus. Luckily, near my house, there are some mini-markets (pulperias), and I been able to buy groceries for my family.
The fear that everybody has now is that the virus will get out of control because our medical system cannot endure having thousands of people sick with coronavirus. What’s more, the shortage of water in Tegucigalpa is increasingly becoming an issue. In my house, we are consciously using less water in our daily activities.
Today, in Honduras, we have 27 people infected with COVID-19. I believe this whole situation has clearly demonstrated to all people the critical importance of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). If I look at a bright side, it is also giving people the opportunity to spend more time with their loved ones.”
Also in collaboration with CAWST, the PWW team in Haiti is working on radio messages and virtual activities that promote the importance of washing hands. The team is also looking at options of driving trucks with loud speakers in areas that lack access to communication and spread the word about how to protect families from COVID-19.
“The coronavirus is something new to all of us,” said Laura Guerrier, PWW’s Office Manager in Haiti. “This worldwide virus, which anyone can be exposed to, can result in a person being ill, heal, or die…depending on the strength of the person’s human system. We don’t know how our own bodies will react.
The PWW team members in Haiti are continuing our important work while following strict hygiene protocols to protect ourselves and the people we encounter. However, we are anxious about our own families and the people of Haiti. We remain motivated to help the most remote and vulnerable communities to prevent the spread of coronavirus. With six cases confirmed in Haiti, as of today, and more than 100 in quarantine, we need to be vigilant. A lot of people in communities where we have worked in the past are counting on us, hoping the PWW team will support them. We will continue as long as it is permitted and as long as we are able to be as safe as is possible.“
Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, recently completed its first cholera-free year since the disease was introduced to the nation, by aid workers, following the 2010 earthquake. The disease infected over 650,000 people, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths.
Last Thursday, Haiti confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19. The government quickly closed airports, schools, factories and seaports. By late Friday, gas stations were running out of fuel. With upwards of 50% of all Haitians lacking reliable access to safe drinking water and millions with no access to basic sanitation services, washing hands to halt the spread of the virus becomes quite challenging. What’s more, the dense population, particularly in communities like Cité Soleil (the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere), means suggested practices of social distancing is not a simple solution.
“Our teams across Haiti, Honduras and the United States are taking this time to continue to improve our comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene programs,” said Jamin Gelder, Deputy Director. “PWW has always been committed to assessing what we are doing, how we are doing it, and finding ways we can improve. We are able to take this time to hone in on these areas so we will come out of this pandemic an even stronger organization.”