Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update, 3 April 2020


Every day we learn of the rising COVID-19 death toll in Europe, the US and Asia and we recognise it as a truly global tragedy. The UN Secretary General is urging a worldwide co-ordinated health response to limit the spread of the virus or “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire”. This response is what Practical Action aims to be a part of.

We’re hearing from our colleagues around the world of the likely impact of the virus on the poorest communities, who will be ill-equipped to cope. With many living in overcrowded settlements in unsanitary conditions, social distancing will be almost impossible in places where access to soap and water for handwashing was already limited. Our teams fear the worst but have already begun to respond.

We’ve been conferring with our partners and government bodies and our action plans are being finalised. They will combine three stages, to help people prepare for, withstand and recover from the impact of the virus:

1. Limit the spread. Protect the lives of vulnerable people by improving access to handwashing facilities and supporting front line workers with protective equipment.

2. Keep essential services running. Work with communities to ensure that water, sanitation and waste systems continue and food supply chains remain intact – and maintain flood preparedness ahead of the approaching monsoon season.

3. Support longer term recovery. Our work to support people in improving their lives and livelihoods will be needed more than ever. Helping farmers to succeed in the face of climate change. Helping communities harness the power of clean energy to improve incomes and community facilities and making cities cleaner, safer places to live.

Our work has already begun

Limiting the spread:

  • In Bangladesh, we’re providing Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar with handwashing kits.
  • In Sudan, our solar-powered water provision projects in Darfur and Kassala now include the distribution of soap and handwashing information.
  • In Kenya, we are working with regional governments to extend clean water supplies to people in informal settlements where we have trained more than 3,000 local volunteers to disseminate hygiene messages. We will be scaling up this work over the coming weeks.
  • In Sudan, we have used our trusted position to introduce health workers into remote communities, explaining why it is vital they are accepted and their advice is followed and we’ve provided vehicles to enable the dissemination of information to remote rural communities.
  • In West Africa and Bolivia, we are providing a link between the governments and remote communities, bringing properly translated information through podcasts and radio programmes in native languages.
  • In Peru, where the rainy season is now threatening vulnerable communities, we have provided people with guidelines on how to keep safe should coronavirus and floods hit at the same time.
  • In India, we’re contacting local governments to support efforts to spread handwashing and social distancing messaging and distributing soap and cleaning materials and menstrual hygiene kits to the poorest families

Keeping essential services running:

  • In Bangladesh, we’re supplying 1,100 personal protective equipment kits to waste collection workers. In India, we’re also providing personal protection gear for waste workers and community volunteers.
  • In Bangladesh and India, we’re working with local governments to keep waste management systems running safely and we will be supporting market traders to maintain essential supply chains, safely.
  • In Peru and Nepal, we’re ensuring emergency shelters are operational and will have the necessary handwashing and cleaning equipment to limit further spread in the event of a flood or other type of emergency
  • In Nepal and Zimbabwe, we’re already discussing with contractors how best to ensure existing electricity supplies are maintained and we will be looking at how to expand it into health centres and other key rural institutions.
  • Throughout the world, we will be using our network of private sector distributors to help bring home solar systems to remote communities and prevent the need to congregate in order to charge mobile phones.


In the coming weeks we’ll be working with our many partners to explore how we can fund and implement this and additional work, to help people prepare for, withstand and recover from the chaos coronavirus will bring.

  • To support Practical Action’s work at this time of global crisis you can donate online.
  • Our UK office is closed but everyone is still working from home. You can contact our supporter services team by phone on 0800 389 1624 or by email at
  • During this time, we may take a little longer to thank you for your donation or respond to your questions. We thank you for your understanding.

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