The people of Bangladesh have witnessed some effective measures taken by Government of Bangladesh (GoB) for the management of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which include ensuring an adequate number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front line workers, guidelines in place tailored for different levels of frontline workers and incentives for farmers. To support the bigger agenda of GoB regarding the management of COVID-19 pandemic, USAID’s SHOUHARDO III implemented by CARE Bangladesh mobilized 2.83 million USD of its existing resources. This initiative included installing handwashing stations (HWS) in healthcare facilities of 10 Upazilas where the program works, in addition to distribution of essential medical supplies such as disinfectant sprayer and liquid soap. Hand washing is deemed as one of the key preventive measures against COVID-19. We spoke to four healthcare workers of Upazila Health Complex (UHC), Community Clinic (CC) and Family Welfare Centre (FWC) situated in remote areas of Kishoreganj which is an avid Haor area that has significantly remote healthcare facilities at the beginning of May.
The HWSs were mostly installed outside the healthcare worker’s room so that the patients can wash their hands before and after entering the room. The patient visiting hour were limited from 8 am to 12 pm daily, with no holidays in between. The patient flow increased from before past few weeks as the markets and bazaars were allowed to be open, and more people were getting out of the house. The HWSs were a timely investment, according to the Community healthcare provider (CHCP) from Kamalpur CC at Nikli. The healthcare facilities previously didn’t have the strict rule of handwashing in pre-pandemic time. When the GoB made it mandatory in their guideline for the management of COVID-19 pandemic in healthcare facilities, the healthcare workers used the nearby tube wells to aid this practice. They placed a bucket with a mug and a soap for the patients to wash their hands before entering their rooms for consultation. One of the CCs didn’t have any water supply system, not even a tube well nearby, so they used a bucket, mug and soap and fetched water from nearby houses for handwashing which weren’t close. This added an extra workload in their already jam-packed daily work schedule. The HWSs were a sigh of relief.
“Handwashing is one of the main weapons against this Coronavirus”, expressed by the UHFPO of Mithamoin UHC. The patients were previously requested to wash their hands at home before coming to the healthcare facilities, which was not possible to monitor all the time. Since some of the washbasins are out in the open, people are washing hands even if they are not coming to visit the healthcare facilities. As shared by the Family Planning Inspector (FPI) from Karpasha FWC at Nikli, “Patients sometimes hide symptom out of fear of the disease, it is difficult for us to detect with our bare eyes who have COVID-19 and who don’t. Before the HWSs, they used the bucket and mug to wash hands with soap, which added to the spread of infection more since others were touching the handles too.” The HWSs are serving as a barrier to infection as people don’t have to touch the same mugs or tube well handles anymore. The taps flow water automatically when opened for the entire day, as the tanks are 4-6 litres in capacity. The water never runs out now in a day. This is not only a timely but also a long-term help from SHOUHARDO III as expressed by all four healthcare workers. These HWSs will serve for the healthcare workers and community people even after the pandemic dies down, as the structure is better than any tube well or bucket-mug facility. One CHCP fills the tank for overnight use before he turns off the motor for the tank and leaves his CC at Kamalpur in Nikli. He shared, “I want to serve people as much as I can…Shouhardo has helped me with this. I keep the tank full when I leave so that people in the surrounding area can wash their hands when they need. Since they have it in their memory that we have HWSs now, they come and wash their hands by habit.”
The HWSs have helped not only the healthcare workers but also the community as well. It is an active defence system against the Coronavirus 2019 and will impact in the reduction of infection in the wider community. However, one CHCP from Jorkunda CC in Itna lamented, “Even though we are advocating for people to wash their hands before entering our center and it is surely helping us to control the contagion within this ground…but we can’t see what they are doing when they are going back home. Awareness of the mass people is important…which is difficult to monitor if people individually aren’t aware…I hope the practice of handwashing that they do here continues within their households too.”
Written by Sairana Ahsan, Reporting and Documentation Manager of SHOUHARDO III, CARE Bangladesh.