A long dirt road with a lady in a hi vis vest looking towards the horizon with her back to the camera
When word of a new, unknown and potentially deadly virus started spreading in Papua New Guinea (PNG), many people were terrified.


The people of PNG are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, only 37% of the population have access to basic water supply and only 28% of the population have access to a handwashing facility with soap and water at their household.


A COVID-19 response is a WASH response - with support from the Australian Government, through Water for Women, our partner, WaterAid swung into action.


They have been working collaboratively with local partners and government to help communities get aware and be prepared for COVID-19. They have travelled by road, by foot and even by boat to reach the most remote communities of East Sepik, an estimated 45,000 people from 147 communities!
A group of women standing outside a house wearing matching outfits and masks

"It is very important for women to be a part of water, sanitation, and hygiene activities," says Krispina, "we are the ones responsible for our households, but also for influencing our families and communities."

The Ruteng Women's Group have gone from strength to strength in Indonesia, using their creativity, song and local knowledge to create meaningful change within their communities and beyond!

They are now using their skills to ensure communities are aware and prepared for COVID-19.

 These women stepped forward as part Yayasan Plan International Indonesia and Plan International Australia's Participatory Action Research which has allowed them to channel their love of family and community into positive #WASH behaviour change.


Read their story



Women in a wheelchair wearing colourful clothing washes her hands with a handwashing device

“Now I have access and I can easily wash my hands to protect myself from Coronavirus.”

Sufia lives in Gaibandha district in Bangladesh, she is a 55 years old and happy to be able to access this handwashing device to protect her against COVID-19.

Sufia and her family have all been impacted by COVID-19. Sufia has had to stop her education classes and her sons labouring work has slowly dried up, which has gradually reduced their household income, making it harder to afford the basic necessities, such as soap.

With the help of a local Self Help Group (SHG), Sufia's challenges were brought to the attention of World Vision Bangladesh and she was provided with this handwashing device along with some useful materials on COVID-19 prevention. SHG leaders also demonstrated to Sufia how to wash her hands properly with soap using the device, and she was able to relay this to her family too.

This initiative forms part of World Vision Bangladesh's COVID-19 response, with support from the Australian Government through Water for Women.

Read Sufia's story



A COVID-19 Response is a WASH Response


Now, more than ever, the importance of inclusive, accessible and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is clear.

As the first line of defence against COVID-19

As a key first response when natural disaster strikes

And always in maintaining healthy and resilient communities


12th May, 2020

Across Asia and the Pacific, Water for Women partners have been responding to the COVID-19 crisis


Across the Indo-Pacific, our partners responded rapidly to meet the global challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the impacts of natural disasters such as Tropical Cyclone Harold.

Through Water for Women, Australia supports innovative and adaptive approaches that are having immediate impact in helping these countries combat the risk of COVID-19.

From World Hand Hygiene Day (5th May) through to Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May), we will be sharing stories of how our partner's have rapidly responded to meet this unprecedented challenge.

Stay tuned for updates on this page and through our Facebook and Twitter accounts by following the #WASHvsCOVID hashtag.


Young Vietnamese girl washed her hands with a happy tap device

Back to school with clean hands in Vietnam!

While children look to return to school in Vietnam, a report by the Ministry of Education & UNICEF has found 30% of schools in Vietnam do not have adequate handwashing facilities.

Thrive Networks / East Meets West Foundation is working the change this. As part of their COVID-19 response and with support from Australia, Thrive is collaborating with Happy Tap Vietnam and Vietnam Women's Union to provide hand washing devices to 173 kindergartens and 980 vulnerable households.

The teams are also focusing on hygiene education to create awareness and encourage good practice, because it is never too early to learn about the importance of clean hands!

Disabled woman wearing a mask and holding a mask she has sewn

Adaptation for mutual benefit in Indonesia

Plan International Australia and Yayasan Plan International Indonesia are on the front line of the COVID-19 response in their project regions in Indonesia, however, mass shortages are creating challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment.

The other impact being felt across the country is the closure of businesses and loss of income.

Ever the entrepreneur, Baiq has responded to both challenges by adapting his business to provide hand sewn protective masks.

Baiq employs people with disabilities in every area of the business and has been working closely with Plan as part of their Water For Women project, who are now his biggest customer!

Masks for protection and income for people with disabilities, this is mutual benefit in action!

Read more

COVID-19 prevention illustration of lady in wheelchair covering her cough

Prevention starts with awareness

In Papua New Guinea, our partners Plan International Australia and Live & Learn Environmental Education worked quickly to develop and distribute effective, engaging and inclusive information on COVID-19 prevention, tailored to the local context of PNG.

It has been wonderful to see the care taken to ensure that communications consider the diversity of people within these communities and their differing experiences and needs during a crisis, and always.


group of people peer at newly installed accessible handwashing station

Established footprints for rapid response

Water for Women partners have the right people in the right places - established teams, networks and relationships with local governments and civil society, which has helped them respond rapidly to COVID-19.

In Bhutan accessible public handwashing stations, prevention awareness materials and social distancing measures have been rolled out by SNV in their communities.

Read more

Man in wheelchair washes hands at accessible handwashing station

Smart interventions in Nepal

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation is providing strategic support where the threat of COVID-19 is highest with the rapid installation of accessible handwashing stations at 130 testing & isolation locations across Nepal.


Mobile handwashing stations

In recognising COVID-19’s burden on Cambodia’s health system, the importance of handwashing in reducing and preventing its transmission and the lack of necessary COVID-19 knowledge, Thrive worked quickly to increase access to handwashing facilities and raise sanitation and hygiene awareness for the most vulnerable groups identified under their Women-led Output Based Aid (WOBA) project. This included of on-site training of proper handwashing practices along with the provision of mobile handwashing devices (pictured) to 2,000 vulnerable poor (GSI category) and poor households.


Read more


Woman in wheelchair looks out a window

Leaving no one behind in the fight to prevent COVID-19 in Vietnam

In VietnamThrive Networks / East Meets West Foundation has collaborated with the Vietnam Women's Union (VWU) to launch the “Women’s Initiative to Leave No One Behind in Preventing the Spread of COVID-19” program which aims to empower women in vulnerable communities in disease prevention efforts in five provinces of Vietnam.

With support from Water for Women, Thrive and VWU quickly aligned with the efforts of Vietnamese Government and adapted WHO recommendations to the local context to spread awareness and prevention messages and materials.

Through this collaboration, Thrive is reaching approximately 28,000 people will be in five provinces including health clinics and kindergartens in 173 project communes. 

Read more



WASH is the first line of defence against COVID-19


In Lao PDR, our partner, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation found some creative ways to spread awareness around COVID-19 prevention.

Songs ‘travel’ through social media, TV, mobile trucks with loudspeakers, community radio, and through oral tradition.

SNV worked quickly on behavioural change activities, engaging celebrities in Lao society to produce the popular ‘Stop Stop Covid’ (below right) song in line with key government messages on COVID-19 reinforcement measures.

They also released a fantastic animation (below left) to help engage a wider audience on these important messages. 

Read more about their campaign development on their blog: 

Behavioural change (hygiene) communications in a COVID-19 era: the case of Lao PDR


Woman addressing crowed in remote village in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, WaterAid launched an intensive campaign to increase awareness & prevention of COVID-19.

An effective collaboration working with the Government of Papua New Guinea and traversing challenging environments to reach remote communities across Wewak.

Read more

Awareness and prevention messaging at a distance in Cambodia in the times of COVID-19

In Cambodia, iDE work with the whole sanitation market system, a wide network of households, government and businesses. A network they are now mobilising to reach people and communities with critical information and awareness around COVID-19.

When facing such a great challenge, WASH networks are proving invaluable in responding rapidly to this crisis.

Read more 

Social distancing measures in India, keeping 1.5 metres apart

Working together in India to prevent COVID-19 with rapid and scalable initiatives

COVID-19 is on the rise in India and is expected to increase social, political, and economic disruption across all states.

WASH is the first line of defence against COVID-19. Through Water for Women, Australia supports innovative and adaptive approaches that are having immediate impact. Our partners, Centre for Advocacy & Research - CFAR and RTI International are drawing on a powerful mix of innovative and game changing practices to engage both the system and community to establish a consistent and scaled-up COVID-19 response in Bhubaneswar and Jaipur.

This includes behaviour change communications, strengthening WASH practices and skills development amongst vulnerable groups.

Read more

Group of people listen to a woman speaking from stairs of an office in Vanuatu

Combatting two crises with WASH in Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, communities have been grappling with the dual challenges of COVID-19 prevention and the devastating impacts of Tropical Cyclone Harold.

WASH is a critical response to both of these crises.

Our partners, World Vision Australia and World Vision Vanuatu were quick to respond, stepping up their outreach to communities with COVID-19 hygiene and prevention awareness, reaching approximately 30,000 people.

They successfully mobilised their existing network of lead farmers and faith leaders to spread the messages even further, conduct training on bamboo tippy tap construction and share awareness materials and instructions on prevention measures.


Read more



COVID-19 highlights the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and protecting the most vulnerable within our communities. It also underlines the importance of the work being carried out by our partners. Hygiene, including handwashing with soap is essential to reduce transmission of microbes including viruses such as COVID-19.  Without safe water in ready supply, appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices to reduce disease are very difficult, even impossible. WASH does and will continue to play a critical role in keeping communities safe and healthy. 

Follow our #WASHvsCOVID hashtag on social media and this page to stay up to date with our
COVID-19 response stories.

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