As of May 2020, thanks to your support we have been able to:

  • Reach an estimated 148,000 people living in rural communities with essential information about coronavirus and advice on how to prevent the spread. As these communities already suffer from health problems and have very limited access to hospitals and ventilators, this campaign is helping to prevent devastation.
  • Begin to upgrade our water and handwashing facilities across all three countries in which we operate, with 50 of the communities we work with now able to access facilities that align with World Health Organisation Guidance. 
  • Launch a range of distance education programmes to ensure that children can continue to learn despite school closures, meaning they do not miss out on the chance to learn the skills they need to break out of poverty.

Coronavirus has reached all three countries we operate in. It is crucial that we continue to prepare for a widespread outbreak in the regions that we work in and ensure children do not miss out on an education in the meantime.


Cambodia

Water and sanitation
We began to open our handwashing facilities for access by the whole community at the end of April. It is important to note that, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation guidance advises higher standards than normal for these. New guidances includes placing taps two metres apart and a queuing system that facilitates social distancing. To date, we have adapted 12% of our facilities to meet this guidance and are now rapidly working on the remainder, with the aim of opening an additional 56% over the next 1-2 weeks.

Where facilities have been opened, local community members have been appointed to monitor usage, ensuring supplies such as soap and water do not run out and that social distancing measures are being followed. As poorer families are often unable to afford soap, our Cambodian building team have procured raw materials to make low-cost liquid soap. All communities we work with have now been supplied with this soap. These communities will therefore be better protected from the virus.

Virus awareness
We are targeting all members of the communities we support with our covid-19 awareness campaign, which aims to achieve the following:

  • Communities understand essential information about covid-19, including the symptoms and how it is transmitted.
  • Communities understand the importance of social distancing.
  • Communities understand the importance of handwashing and how to practise it effectively.
  • Communities are supported to understand how to manage their own wellbeing during the current crisis.

We are sharing these messages through a range of communication tools including information posters, community meetings and training, handwashing demonstrations, awareness songs and social media messaging.

In Cambodia, 76% of our community teachers have now received training to deliver these messages, with the campaign launched in 64% of communities. As a result, we have reached an estimated 86,750 individuals with virus awareness messaging.

Continuing education
In the face of school closures, it is essential that children do not miss out on education. In the regions we work only 15% of households have access to a phone, meaning virtual education resources are not viable. As schools remain closed, our supplementary education programme prioritises ‘take-away’ education which children can collect and do at home. This programme has launched across all communities, and will continue until we can safely open schools.


Myanmar

Water and sanitation
We began to open our handwashing facilities for access by whole communities at the end of April. In Myanmar, 48% of our facilities have been adapted to meet updated WHO guidance (see above) and are now open, with the remainder to be opened imminently.

While handwashing is common practise across Myanmar, rural communities often do not have access to a large enough supply of water to wash their hands regularly. The mountainous nature of many communities makes pumping water from a source difficult. Where water supplies are limited, we are reducing water wastage by adapting taps with a reduced flow and installing foot operated taps. We are monitoring our facilities robustly to ensure increased handwashing does not result in a shortage of drinking water.

We have provided all 71 communities with soap bars, and have remaining stock to last two to three weeks. The team are now assessing providing communities with the raw materials to make their own liquid soap, a practice that is being encouraged by the Myanmar government and will help ensure the safety of community members.

Virus awareness
In Myanmar, 97% of our community teachers have now received training to deliver virus awareness and prevention messages (see above), with the campaign launched in 88% of communities. As a result, we have reached an estimated 17,400 individuals with essential virus messaging.

Village leaders play a particularly prominent role in Myanmar. Our team have now called every contactable village leader (a minority have no phone or internet access) to engage them with the campaign and train them to deliver key messages. Their leadership role encourages wider trust in the information we are sharing.

Continuing education
Schools closed in April for the normal school holidays and remain closed for the foreseeable future. The Myanmar Ministry of Education is currently producing learning kits for children to be rolled out in June. In the meantime, our team are providing alternative education resources. When government resources are launched we will assess whether continued supplementary provision is necessary.

Community teachers are holding socially-distanced lessons with groups of 5-6 students (as per government guidelines). These focus on a storybook which explains how children can protect themselves and their families from covid-19. Following these sessions, students are given additional activities to complete at home. Our teachers are also implementing a targeted wellbeing campaign, which includes distributing key wellbeing messages, engaging parents in ‘positive parenting’ techniques and distributing posters in communities. This builds on our existing child protection procedures to help ensure children’s safety and wellbeing while schools are closed.

By ensuring children can still access education, we are making sure no one is left behind due to a lack of resources and digital access. We are seeking ongoing funding to ensure our teachers can continue to deliver a quality education even in the face of school closures.


Nepal

Water and sanitation
We began to open our handwashing facilities for access by whole communities at the end of April. In Nepal, 63% of our facilities have now been adapted to meet updated WHO guidance (see above) and are now open for use. Culturally, handwashing is not universal in Nepal: our audit suggests 80% of the communities we work with do not practise regular handwashing with soap. Our awareness campaign in Nepal is particularly focused on handwashing, explaining the benefits and best practice. We are also providing bars of soap to all communities. Bars of soap continue to be readily available across Nepal for a relatively low cost.

In four communities in Nepal, we have repositioned some of our handwashing facilities next to high traffic areas (e.g. temples) in addition to the facilities in schools.

Virus awareness
In Nepal, 100% of our community teachers have now received training to deliver these messages, with the campaign launched in all 37 communities we work with. As a result, we have reached an estimated 43,850 individuals with essential virus messaging.

Continuing education
Schools in Nepal closed as routine for the March school holidays, and have not re-opened. Most children have textbooks, writing books and stationery at home. While only c.5% of households have access to a phone with an internet connection, an estimated 95% of households have access to a radio station. We have now began broadcasting an education programme to all of the communities we work with via local radio stations. These are daily and last for 45 minutes. The broadcast has the potential to reach up to 75,000 children. This programme includes informative messages around covid-19. As our school handwashing facilities open, the programme will also advertise that they are available for community use. This initiative has received wide support from the Nepal government, who are exploring how we can roll this out nationally.


Finance overview

Estimated costs of upgrading handwashing facilities: £248,000
Total raised: £114,000

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to fully fund our water and hygiene upgrade programme in Myanmar, with all upgrades to be complete over the next two weeks. However we still have a funding gap of £134,000 across Cambodia and Nepal, which we urgently need to fill in order to provide safe handwashing facilities to all the communities we support.


Next steps

Thanks to your support, we have been able to introduce a wide range of preventative measures that are preparing communities in case of an outbreak. While we hope they will ultimately not be needed, we will continue to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The communities we work with have very little access to hospitals, ventilators and health care. The measures we put in place now could be life-saving.

Over the next eight weeks, we will focus on:

  • Continuing to upgrade handwashing facilities and opening as many as possible to communities.
  • Reinforcing the key messages of our public health campaign, and encouraging communities to adopt regular handwashing as an everyday practise.
  • Planning quarantine and isolation measures for our communities in case of an outbreak. As most households within the communities we work with are unsuitable for social isolation, this may include adapting our schools as quarantine centres.
  • Ensuring our students continue to learn to read, write and count so they do not miss out on the education they need to thrive. While we will continue to our public health work, the next stage of our appeal is focused on distance learning and ongoing education provision, including seeking funding for teacher salaries, developing distance learning resources and utilising technology where possible, such as our radio show in Nepal.

We need your help to continue this life-saving work.

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