With an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in Herat, Afghanistan, health workers have found themselves among the most vulnerable in contracting the virus. Leeda, 30, works as a nurse in a local clinic. She worries about exposure to the disease and says that her family has encouraged her to leave her position. Inadequate access to hand washing facilities with liquid soap dispenser in health care facilities was a big challenge as clinics struggled with a limited number of functional hand washing stations, not nearly enough to meet increased demand.
As Leeda explains, “We faced a big challenge during the [early] days of coronavirus. While washing hands is one of the most effective way to protect ourselves from the virus, the two handwashing stations here [in the clinic] did not work properly and always depended on the pressure of water from the water tanker.” The problem wasn’t limited to health workers, she says: “Clinic clients use [facilities] frequently, which could easily lead to increased virus transmission.”
To limit the spread of COVID-19, World Vision Afghanistan, with funding from Aktion Deutschland Hilft, installed 15 handwashing stations along with liquid soap dispenser in 14 clinics around the urban centre of Herat City. Two-hundred-and-thirty health workers have benefited directly in addition to countless patients who visit these clinics daily. World Vision continues to scale up preventative measures through strengthening health systems by way of infrastructure and personnel.
According to Leeda, “The water system of [the stations] has been adjusted so that we can use it whenever we want. The taps are automatic and do not need to be opened or closed,” which helps limit the spread of infection through contact. “Washing hands is now easy for the clients, and especially the children, because they tend to make contact with many surfaces, and now they are able to wash their hands by themselves whenever they need to.”
Tamanna, 7, came to the clinic with her mother, who is sick. She washed her hands by herself and reports that “When I hold my hands close to the tap, the water comes out like magic!”
Freba, 37, is the head of Gozara clinic. She says the intervention was an absolute necessity during this time. “I am thankful to World Vision. We had a shortage of handwashing facilities in our clinic, which has been critical during [the current pandemic].” The additional station has provided one more barrier against the transmission of the virus. The clinic is careful to regularly maintain and disinfect the new stations in order to ensure functionality and provide as sanitary an environment as possible to both staff and patients.
As part of COVID-19 response, World Vision Afghanistan supports Government efforts by scaling up preventative measures and strengthening the health systems with vary Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions.