Mere from Malevu: rising to the challenge to protect her community against COVID-19

A Fijian woman is sitting inside and smiling at the camera, she is a village health worker

When the threat of COVID-19 was growing, Mere was mobilising to protect her community! As a health worker in Malevu village, she undertook training with our partner Habitat for Humanity. Now she is leading awareness sessions for her community wherever she can to ensure everyone is washing their hands properly. (Habitat for Humanity Fiji) 


Mere is a health worker in Malevu Village in Fiji. Like many front-line workers Mere has been protecting her community in their fight against COVID-19. The realities of living through a pandemic can be a worrying and traumatic experience for many people, especially those living in rural and remote locations where access to affordable and quality healthcare is limited and water can be a scarce resource.


Community protection, health and wellbeing all starts with clean, accessible water. In communities, households, schools and workplaces, water means health, hygiene, dignity and productivity. In the face of COVID-19, and always in protecting communities from disease, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is the first line of defence.


“… After the Habitat Water, Sanitation and Hygiene training I learnt about handwashing and I straight away taught my family first,” shares Mere.


Mere is a great example of the power and influence of change agents in a community. Trusted voices who can create understanding and change at a community level, when equipped with the right knowledge and tools.


Supported by the Australian Government, through Water for Women, our partner, Habitat for Humanity Australia and Fiji is working with change agents, including community health workers, in 18 communities and 11 schools within the Ba and Ra provinces in Fiji to promote resilience and inclusion through improved WASH services.


Since Habitat for Humanity's training session in Malevu, not only has Mere taught her family about the importance of proper handwashing, she has also led awareness sessions with children and adults throughout the community. She has been working tirelessly to spread the message during Sunday School lessons, village meetings and also to the women’s group, that handwashing can help save lives.


And her work has made a difference in Malevu. Mere has noticed a huge change in handwashing practice from children and adults alike, “Over here, everyone didn't really wash our hands [before]... I now notice adults and even children washing their hands after toilet and eating.”


While Fiji thankfully remains COVID-19 free, community-based WASH projects being carried out by organisations like Habitat for Humanity are critical in making sure this doesn’t change and building cohesive, healthy and resilient communities for the future.


Through their Water for Women project in Fiji, Habitat for Humanity is working to encourage the leadership of historically vulnerable groups. They are engaging with women, girls, people with disabilities and from the LGBTIQ community and ensuring they have technical roles in the management of water and sanitation of their community. These groups are redefining the future of their communities through their leadership and skills.


The value of water is about much more than its price – in communities, households, schools and workplaces, water means health, hygiene, dignity, productivity and more.


Throughout March, for International Women's Day and World Water Day, we are celebrating the value of women and the value of water. Both are critical to building healthy and climate-resilient communities. 


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