Concern donates soap to almost 1 million people living in extreme poverty to prevent Covid-19

Rosette Mesalien washes her hands with liquid soap in front of their home in Cite Soleil slum a district of Port-au-Prince.
Rosette Mesalien washes her hands with liquid soap in front of their home in Cite Soleil slum a district of Port-au-Prince.

International aid organisation Concern Worldwide has supplied almost one million people with soap and hand sanitiser in some of the world’s poorest countries to help prevent major Covid-19 outbreaks.

Concern has been supplying cleaning soaps since the pandemic began in countries such as Syria, Haiti, Malawi, Niger and Somalia where many struggle to afford basic items.

“Cleaning hands is essential in crowded slums to help prevent the spread of Covid-19,” said Kwanli Klaudstrup, Concern’s country director in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. “But many of the people we help can’t afford a simple bar of soap – so we had to do something to try and prevent them getting this lethal virus.”

In Haiti, Concern, with help from Irish Aid, also provided money and training for unemployed people to make their own soap to use and sell, which has been running successfully in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s largest slum.

"It is not easy for me to buy soap in my community,” said Sterline Dieu (28) who is now making and selling liquid and solid soap in Cité Soleil.

I was not working and it took me 15 days to one month to collect enough money to buy soap to wash clothes, but now I am I making soap to sell to survive.

Sterline Dieu

Kwanli said jobs and incomes disappeared during the pandemic and that soap making projects are just one way they can help provide a lifeline to local economies while improving hygiene and health.

The organisation has also been helping local governments to spread important messages about how people can prevent the spread of Covid-19, such as washing hands, social distancing and wearing face masks.

“We have over 3,500 staff in 23 countries doing everything they can to inform people how to protect themselves and prevent their families from catching the virus,” said Concern’s International Programmes Director, Anne O’Mahony.

“Soap and clean water are so important in the battle against Covid-19, but, sadly, not everyone can afford them.

“We are providing water and soap where people don’t have them and this has been a crucial necessity in many densely populated slums and areas where social distancing is also extremely difficult.”

'It will help my household curb the risk of contracting the virus' says Veronica Banda from Lilongwe after receiving soap and Covid-19 fliers as part of a hygiene distribution by Concern Malawi.
'It will help my household curb the risk of contracting the virus' says Veronica Banda from Lilongwe after receiving soap and Covid-19 fliers as part of a hygiene distribution by Concern Malawi.
Concern employee Judith Cent distributing soap in Malawi.
Concern employee Judith Cent distributing soap in Malawi.
Smeralda Guerrier a beneficiary of Concern readies liquid soap in Cite Soleil slum a district of Port-au-Prince Haiti
Smeralda Guerrier a beneficiary of Concern readies liquid soap in Cite Soleil slum a district of Port-au-Prince Haiti

Anne said another important part of Concern’s work during the pandemic has been to try and create employment opportunities for people who have lost their livelihoods.

“In many of the countries where we work, there is no social welfare or Covid support system so when they lose their jobs they don’t eat,” said Anne.

“At the moment they are cutting out fruit and vegetables from their diets and living on maize meal or rice with a sprinkling of salt for flavour. They are increasingly getting into debt, but their credit with their shopkeepers will soon run out.”

 

For more information, please contact Hannah Myerson at [email protected].

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