Maximising established hygiene programmes to deliver preventative COVID-19 hygiene messaging and behaviour change campaigns on a large scale, in partnership with Unilever.

Where did we work?

Six countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zambia – were chosen for this project as mitigating COVID-19 in these settings would reduce the global impact of the disease and protect smaller neighbouring countries. In these six countries, WaterAid already had well-established country programmes, with strong national and sub-national networks and partnerships, that were delivering effective hygiene behaviour change campaign work, aligned with and supported by national and local governments.

Within each country, there was a sub-national, regional or state focus which included mass, digital and social media with national and sub-national reach. For example, in Ghana, focus areas included the capital, Accra, as well as the Upper West Region and the Upper East Region.

What did we do?

The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded quickly. We know that to protect people and reduce the risk of infections, it is crucial for people to wash their hands with soap and water frequently, in addition to other behaviours such as social distancing and respiratory hygiene – covering your mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing. The Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition built on our extensive experience of running local and national hygiene promotion and behaviour change campaigns, and looked to promote four key behaviours which had been proven to reduce the transmission of COVID-19:

  • Handwashing with soap
  • Maintaining physical distancing
  • Respiratory hygiene
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces

What did the project achieve?

During an exceptionally challenging period, our country programmes delivered mass media hygiene behaviour change campaigns, community behaviour change campaigns, mass handwashing facilities and hygiene commodities to 152 million people.

  • They helped to form national creative committees made up of representatives from government, public health, NGOs and creative agencies to develop new, custom engaging assets that used local languages and celebrities. These mass media campaigns reached between 20% and 70% of the entire population of each country multiple times.
  • They worked with government and national community development partners to design and modify face-to-face community behaviour change packages to incorporate COVID-19 behaviours, reaching more than 315,000 people.
  • Our country programmes also provided emergency design and testing of handwashing facilities and installed 1,122 large-scale, hands-free services, with an estimated reach of more than 8 million people. We designed locally appropriate models which should be easier to maintain and sustain over time.
  • They distributed more than 1.8 million hygiene products that were donated by project partner, Unilever.
  • And our country programme in Nepal integrated COVID-19 preventive behaviours into an existing national programme to promote good hygiene alongside vaccination programmes.

Country snapshot: Ghana

We worked to support the national government’s Clean Community Campaign by developing mass media assets and a new face-to-face campaign which continues to be delivered by government health workers today. In total, we reached 13.5 million Ghanaians in five regions with behaviour change messages on radio and television, while 175 communities and 68 healthcare facilities participated in the face-to-face campaign.


  • We mounted five billboards with messages on COVID-19 safety protocols at vantage locations in the five regions of the project. These reached an estimated 330,000 people.
  • Celebrities with a total of five million social media followers acted as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) ambassadors, sharing WASH and COVID-19 messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to an estimated 1.5 million people.
  • We reached more than 750,000 people with hygiene and COVID-19 prevention messages by working with local NGO partners and consultants on district level campaigns and by broadcasting pre-recorded jingles and messages in communities.

Hand hygiene facilities

  • With support from Unilever, we worked with partners to distribute critical hand hygiene products – 8,200 bars of soap and around 15,000 alcohol-based hand sanitisers – to 175 communities, markets and lorry stations.
  • We distributed and installed 250 metal tippy taps in communities where government health outreach programmes are delivered.
  • We rehabilitated seven water systems – serving nine different communities – with two connected to solar and the rest to the national electricity grid.
  • We trained 28 women from various communities to produce soap, and to become master trainers themselves. They then trained 46 more women on how to produce various kinds of soap.


  • To support the government’s back-to-school agenda, we provided support to develop a WASH and COVID-19 booklet for lower and upper primary schools. One thousand copies were distributed to 160 schools in the six districts.
  • We distributed 180 ‘veronica buckets’ – large, sturdy water containers with taps – to schools across the six districts to help improve hand hygiene among teachers and pupils and facilitate a safe return to school.

Healthcare facilities

  • To support the management of healthcare facilities in the fight against the pandemic, we installed 95-foot operated handwashing facilities in 61 health centres across the country.
  • We also distributed 26,800 bars of soap and more than 47,000 alcohol-based sanitisers to 68 health centres, reaching 100,000 people.

Top image: Luciana Munkombwe, 20, washing her hands at the contactless handwashing facility before entering the Simango Rural Health Centre, Kazungula District, Zambia, October 2020.