Oxfam has launched a 12-month programme in Nepal and the Philippines to improve the hygiene and health behaviours of 525,000 people to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This is part of the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) and Unilever’s initiative to urgently tackle the spread of coronavirus, which is bringing together a coalition of UK and international NGOs to support activities including hygiene behaviour change programmes.[i],[ii]
We know that the simple act of handwashing with soap, combined with physical distancing, is one of the best ways of slowing and preventing the transmission of coronavirus. That’s why our approach builds on Oxfam’s innovative handwashing behaviour change programme, Mum’s Magic Hands, which was co-created with Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap brand and uses storytelling and emotional nudges to reinforce handwashing at key times.[iii]
Oxfam teams and our partners in Nepal and the Philippines will train community volunteers to deliver the Mum’s Magic Hands curriculum to encourage more effective handwashing practices, tailoring materials to be locally appropriate and sensitive to communities’ specific fears and concerns around Covid-19.
Because of physical distancing and other restrictions in place, Oxfam teams are also developing ways to communicate health and hygiene information to communities remotely. We will use social media, local radio, mobile messaging and other digital formats across 10 districts in Nepal and four municipalities in the Philippines.
Working with local authorities is a critical part of our programme; Oxfam teams will help them understand the challenges and solutions of Covid-19 response and enlist their support in creating the enabling environment to make our work as effective as possible, such as installing handwashing stands outside local institutions in areas where people have limited access to water at home.
Because the pandemic is disproportionately affecting women all around the world – from increased care and domestic responsibilities to higher risks of domestic violence – our work in Nepal and Philippines will also include a strong gender component. All our activities will be designed in a gender sensitive way to address the specific challenges women and girls face.
Closer to home, Oxfam is making it easier for communities in Manchester and Oxford to access handwashing facilities too. We’ve installed Oxfam handwashing stands[iv] outside our shops in Didsbury and Cowley to allow shoppers to wash their hands and learn more about our lifesaving water, sanitation and hygiene work.
Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB chief executive, said: “Effective handwashing is absolutely key to minimise the spread of coronavirus, and I’m delighted that Oxfam is doing so much to reinforce good hygiene, whether in Nepal and the Philippines or right here in the UK.
“Our partnership with DFID and Unilever is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to build on evidence about what works and scale up our lifesaving work, collaborate with other organisations and reach more communities with information about how to stay healthy and protect themselves from disease.”
Rebecca Marmot, Unilever Chief Sustainability Officer, said “Unilever’s partnership with DFID is helping to build on the vital work that Oxfam and other international NGOs are doing to tackle the spread of coronavirus around the world. Initiatives are helping to increase access to hygiene products and infrastructure, while running mass public awareness campaigns on the importance of handwashing and other social distancing measures.”