At Splash, there are a number of ways COVID-19 is affecting our people and operations. As supporters of our mission, we want to ensure you are aware of this impact and how we are responding. Our decisions are being guided by advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), and by the experience and leadership of our own team. We remain committed to ensuring that children in vulnerable communities have clean water, behavior programs focused on handwashing, decent toilets, and menstrual health education to support their health and well-being.
How is the virus affecting Splash beneficiaries?
We are very concerned about the student beneficiaries we serve in Addis Ababa and Kolkata, as well as their teachers and families. Schools are closed in Ethiopia and the government announced a five-month state of emergency in April. India declared a 21-day national lockdown in March, including school closures, which was then extended to May 31. The country plans to further ease restrictions for restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and places of worship starting June 8. It is not clear how long school closures will be in effect in either case. This has widespread impacts on students from interrupted learning, nutrition/food insecurity (many students in both cities rely on school feeding programs), reduced child safety, and higher dropout rates.
What are you doing to address the virus?
Globally, we are looking at how to ramp up the production of our patented handwashing stations, to provide them to the NGOs, companies, and governments who can deploy them broadly.
In Ethiopia, we are supporting the government’s efforts to protect their citizens in two important ways:
- First, the government has converted three schools in our program into quarantine centers for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. This means that those quarantined, and the health care workers treating them, will have access to clean water and Splash handwashing stations, both of which are critical to their care.
- Second, we have partnered with the Addis Ababa Bureau of Health to bring our hygiene intervention to six hospitals. This includes the installation of handwashing stations and hygiene posters that encourage handwashing with soap, social distancing, and other preventative measures to keep health care workers, and those they care for, safe. We hope to expand this work soon to reach other health centers in the capital.
How is the virus affecting Splash globally?
COVID-19 cases have spread to the core countries where we work in and we are monitoring these situations closely.
- The health and safety of all Splash staff, families, contractors, and the communities we serve are our top priorities. No staff have tested positive for the virus.
- All team members in Seattle and Kolkata are now working remotely as per government directives. In Addis Ababa, most staff are also working from home. We are taking steps to ensure social distancing at the office, requiring staff to avoid public transport (by taking Splash-owned or their own private vehicles), and minimizing their visits to project sites. All work-related international travel is prohibited.
- We are strongly urging all team members to follow their relevant national and state government guidelines and to adhere to WHO guidelines.
- On March 16, the Prime Minister closed schools across the country and banned all public gatherings, including sports events, for 15 days.
- Subsequently, the government announced on March 23 that the country has halted the movement of people and goods along all borders, with the exception of incoming essential goods to the country.
- A national state of emergency was announced on April 8.
- Schools remain closed for the foreseeable future.
- On March 24, the Prime Minister declared an initial 21-day nationwide lock down that includes schools, offices, factories, parks, temples, railways, even airspace. This lockdown was extended to July 31.
- Current guidance from Ministry of Human Resource Development is that schools will re-open on 8/15. This date may change depending on COVID cases in West Bengal. In addition, the State is looking at different strategies for re-opening to allow for social distancing. For example, students could attend the schools on every alternate day to maintain the distance criteria whenever the schools reopen.
- Some industries like rural-based agribusiness and brick making were able to re-open with more limited operations and social distancing measures.
- Our one remaining staff member (our Country Director) is working safely from home in Yunnan Province and managing communications with our project sites via phone, email, and WeChat.
- Thankfully, we are once again able to send spare parts to orphanage sites and are receiving more requests for technical support.