We are all connected

If there is one ray of hope in these challenging times, it is that through necessity, there is renewed urgency and recognition that the health and wellbeing of everyone on this planet is connected.

You already understand that scaling health impact requires a nuanced understanding of our interdependent world. That’s why you are part of WaterAid’s global community of supporters.

Still – in light of the COVID-19 crisis – you are likely reexamining how closely linked your actions are to the health of your family, your co-workers, your neighbors, your community.

It’s eye-opening to remember that people WaterAid serves in countries all over the world are navigating similar challenges while still struggling with the difficulties they faced prior to the pandemic: accessing clean water and hygiene.

In this edition of The Ripple Effect, we want to show you how your support is directly connected to helping save lives and bringing hygiene, health and hope to families struggling through the global pandemic in places like India, Rwanda and Madagascar.

I hope you’ll take heart in these stories. And I hope you’ll be proud of the impact you are helping achieve — not only for the health of the people we serve, but for the wellbeing of all.

Yes – we are living, and leading, through challenging times. But during challenging times, the best of humanity can rise.

Thank you for rising with us.

Kelly Parsons
CEO, WaterAid


Snapshots from the field: An insider’s look at WaterAid’s global emergency response

From Schoolhouse to shelter

WaterAid delivers for the most vulnerable

A health worker disinfects a classroom at Nanisana  primary school which is now becoming a shelter for homeless people. COVID-19 response. Antananarivo, Madagascar. April 2020.
Image: WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

While the burden of disease in society has never been equal, people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic are paying an especially high price. This is true in the United States – and it is true in developing countries where WaterAid is dedicated to protecting the health of those most at risk.

In Madagascar, WaterAid is working to meet the needs of homeless people living through the pandemic. We are collaborating with the Ministry of Population to ensure that all people have the basics they need to protect themselves from COVID-19. As part of this effort, we are helping transform schools into temporary homeless shelters.

Our role in this initiative is comprehensive. We are supplying tangible items like soap, handwashing stations and plastic waste bins to support lifesaving interventions like handwashing. We are educating residents on how to protect themselves. We are rehabilitating and repairing sanitation facilities. And we are advising health care professionals on how to keep the shelters hygienic and enable adequate social distancing.

Protecting the health of the world’s most vulnerable is always central to WaterAid’s work.

“There are so many people here in Madagascar who don’t know what COVID is, how it spreads, how to avoid it. Many people don’t even have soap or something to wash their
—Liva, WaterAid Madagascar staff


Solonge with her mother Emelthe and six-year-old brother Danny gather around the radio to listen to one of Solonge's radio plays about hygiene and menstrual health on Radio Ishingiro.  Rwanda. 2019
Image: WaterAid/ Elena Heatherwick

In Rwanda, radio is the most popular medium for news and information. WaterAid is reaching a third of the Rwandan population with crucial COVID-19 health messages by working with young writers and actors to produce a series of COVID-19-related radio dramas.


COVID-19 prevention in Bangladesh | WaterAid
Image: WaterAid/Bangladesh

Before Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated countries, went into lockdown, WaterAid quickly jumped into action – building handwashing stations and providing soap in public transport hubs. We have also partnered with the World Health Organization and the Bangladesh Ministry of Health on a major public awareness campaign called ‘Fight Corona United.’


WaterAid Malawi distributes handwashing facilities and supplies to Bwaila Hospital and Lilongwe Main Market along with literature promoting proper hygiene to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Image: WaterAid Malawi

In Malawi, health care workers and hospitals faced shortages of supplies to combat COVID-19. Here, our team delivers handwashing stations and sanitary equipment to Bwaila Hospital in Malawi’s capital.


Ethiopia's COVID-19 response: 5,000 liter capacity water tanks for more distribution, April 2 2020 | WaterAid
Image: WaterAid/Zerihun Kassa

In Ethiopia, where water scarcity is a common challenge, we have distributed 50 water tanks, 2,500 liters of sanitizer and more than 1,000 bars of soap to health centers in the capital city of Addis Ababa.


COVID-19 hygiene poster by WaterAid India
Image: WaterAid India

In India, illiterate and semi-literate rural communities bear a heavy burden of disease. The WaterAid team launched a graphic-heavy COVID-19 mass media awareness campaign that has been translated into seven languages and has reached more than a million people across 13 states. 


In Nepal, celebrity endorsements can strongly influence behavior change. In response to the COVID-19 threat, WaterAid is working with two former Miss Nepals to promote good hygiene behavior on YouTube.

After the sprint

Creating long-term resiliency in global health

Image: WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Leonardo Da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” When it comes to global health, handwashing and hygiene are as simple as interventions come. Yet, the return on investment and health impacts are exponential.

Promoting good hygiene behaviors is the most cost-effective public health intervention and protects people from life-threatening illnesses such as cholera, diarrheal diseases, and now, COVID-19. This moment that we are living through has the potential to lead to catalytic change. The link between good hygiene and disease prevention has never been clearer or more urgent. But we must leverage the moment wisely.

Dr. Om Prasad Gautam, WaterAid senior manager and hygiene lead, has studied previous disease outbreaks extensively and has seen that while there is an immediate uptick in handwashing, inevitably that upward trend plummets once the threat retreats.

That’s why the WaterAid team is building resiliency for the future now. Handwashing and hygiene can prevent future pandemics before they start – but only if we prioritize them.

As more people experience the importance of having sustained access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, we are supporting communities and local leaders in demanding their right to these services. We are also working with governments to invest more and prioritize water and sanitation, so they are better prepared for future rapid response efforts while also meeting immediate health needs.

Further, we will continue deploying sustained behavior change programs at scale. And we are embracing behavior-centric approaches where we listen to communities to design research-backed programs that use people’s emotions, environmental cues, nudges, products and desires to create lasting and healthy behaviors. One example of this revolutionary, yet simple approach is our program that embeds hygiene promotion into Nepal’s national vaccination program.

The impact of handwashing

COVID-19 has been a global wake-up call.

With your support, WaterAid is ready to usher in a new era of hygiene, health and hope. We work in more than 30 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, we have reached 26.4 million people.

Gishu Jafar, 28, demonstrating handwashing during a hygiene behavioural change campaign that combines theatre, music and handwashing demonstrations in the marketplace of Safoge, Bale, Oromia region, Ethiopia, March 2019.
Image: WaterAid/ Genaye Eshetu