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Cleaner Toilets Help Cut the Number of Coronavirus Cases in India

March 22, 2021

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Since UNICEF and partners launched community sanitation facility clean-ups in Mumbai's most densely populated neighborhoods, 11-year-old Fiza no longer dreads her trips to the bathroom.

 

The coronavirus pandemic has hit India especially hard. As of March 22, coronavirus cases in India topped 11.6 million, and India's COVID-19 death rate has risen more rapidly than any other South Asian country. In Mumbai and other crowded urban areas, where lack of private toilets and clean water create the ideal breeding ground for disease, infection rates have been alarmingly high, putting the nation's most vulnerable families at even greater risk.

 

After community toilets emerged as one of the culprits behind a spike in COVID-19 cases, UNICEF in Mumbai extended its support to an alliance of 150 community-based organizations that banded together to regularly clean and disinfect public toilets in the city's most densely populated neighborhoods.  

 

“There was no soap, and the bathroom smelled really bad,” says Fiza, of her local community bathroom in Cheetah Camp, a majority Muslim neighborhood on the outskirts of Mumbai. But once UNICEF and partners stepped in to improve the neighborhood's water and sanitation facilities, things changed. “In the last few months, the bathrooms have become very clean, no bad smells, no mud, and water is available in the taps along with soap and a handwashing facility.”

 

In the video below, Fiza invites viewers home to meet her family, then leads a tour of her neighborhood's newly improved communal bathroom:

 

 

Across India, in the densely populated areas where the most vulnerable families and children live, severe space constraints, poor utility infrastructure and temporary housing mean most households don't have a private bathroom. Overcrowding makes it hard for neighbors to keep a safe distance while using shared sanitation facilities — many of which didn't have soap or handwashing stations when the coronavirus pandemic began. Cheetah Camp is just one such community where UNICEF has helped improve public bathrooms and taught residents how to use them safely.  

 

Fully equipped, clean bathrooms improve — and even save — children's lives. But that's just one way UNICEF and partners have been helping families fight COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, UNICEF has provided 3.6 million people across India with critical WASH supplies — including hygiene essentials — and services, and shared information with 660 million children and their families about how to avoid COVID-19. Some 2.5 million health care facility staff and community health workers have also been trained in how to prevent and control infection. UNICEF is making a difference through local partnerships, too.

 

On Menstrual Hygiene Day, UNICEF, local corporate partners and the government of India's Bihar state launched the campaign “Mahamaari mein nahi rukti maahwari.” Roughly translated as "Periods don't stop for pandemics," the initiative worked to debunk the misconceptions and stigma girls and women face and address the difficulty many have managing their menstruation. As part of the campaign, girls received stipends to buy sanitary pads and soap. Schools organized education and awareness programs and more affluent parents donated sanitary pads, soap and other hygiene essentials to women and girls in need. 

 

UNICEF and Citizens Association for Child Rights (CACR) have helped distribute handwashing stations, called easy-to-use SATO taps, which come with a nozzle that releases just enough water for one rigorous handwashing, a refillable bottle and a soap-holder.

 

UNICEF India and Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) have collaborated on mass media COVID-19 prevention campaigns and focused on soap distribution, frontline health worker training and sanitizer station delivery to health care facilities in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

 

This World Water Day, help UNICEF provide the safe water, sanitation and hygiene essentials families and children need to stave off disease and live with dignity. Please donate.

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