COVID-19 poses a special threat to those living in informal settlements on the edges of cities around the world. Experts have warned that developing countries like Namibia are extremely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the best ways to prevent infection and the spread of the virus is washing hands with soap for 20 seconds on a regular basis. Yet people living in informal settlements around cities like Windhoek often have to walk to one tap that services hundreds of people, putting them at risk because they are unlikely to make the trip multiple times a day, the tap itself may become contaminated through frequent use, and they would be in close contact with many other tap users.
In mid-March, we launched a project with our partners, Namibian Chamber of Environment to to help reduce the vulnerability of informal settlement dwellers around Windhoek by installing Tippy Taps. A Tippy Tap is a simple structure made from wood or steel poles, a rope, and a plastic water container. The container can be filled with water or a mixture of water and liquid soap. To use a Tippy Tap, one needs only to step on a plank attached to a rope that pulls the water container to allow the liquid to flow out onto your hands. Thus, a person can wash their hands without touching a tap and with minimal water wastage.
The aim of the programme’s first phase is to set up 20,000 hand washing units (‘Tippy Taps’) in Windhoek’s informal settlements, and provide residents with accurate information on COVID-19 and how to prevent infection. We also distribute posters in five different languages that show how to build your own Tippy Taps – many residents have already built their own following our practical demonstration and the pamphlet instructions.
Each time our volunteers (called “Green Shirts”) build a new Tippy Tap, they take a GPS point that enables us to map our progress and plan our movements through the settlements. This map is updated twice a week and published here, so anyone can keep track of our progress. We currently target four constituencies around Windhoek where people live in crowded conditions within informal settlements: Samora Machel, Moses Garoeb, Tobias Hainyeko, and Khomas East.
This initiative is supported by the following donors: Debmarine-Namdeb Foundation; FirstRand Foundation; German Development Corporation (GIZ); B2Gold; Housing! For Future (Germany); and generous members of the public. All public donations can be made through the Namibian Chamber of Environment.
Home-Based Early Childhood Development and Food Security
Another severe challenge faced by informal settlement residents during this time is supporting their children with food and continuing their education at home. Many of the residents have lost their jobs or are unable to work during the lockdown, while schools and kindergartens have been closed. There are approximately 350 Kindergartens with an estimated 15,000 registered children, between 2-6 years of age in the informal settlements. Due to the lockdown, these children will miss time in the classroom, and even more seriously, may face malnourishment due to economic hardships faced by their families.
With the support of the Botnar Foundation and technical support from UNICEF and the EU, we have been testing a pilot programme to support children and their families to promote home-based Early Childhood Development during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a natural extension of our other activities in these areas, as kindergartens are already important community hubs that we have used as central points during our sanitation programmes.
Through this programme, kindergarten teachers are empowered to provide learning materials, food, information and support to the households of children enrolled in their centres. The teachers are developing activities for children, and guidance for parents to facilitate home-based learning and how to safeguard against COVID-19. The teachers engage with families in small sessions (numbers are limited and social distancing practiced), during which time the children are given learning materials for home use and food parcels.
The pilot project began with one learning centre and five teachers, reaching 60 children and their families. We have received positive feedback from parents and numerous requests from neighbouring areas for support. We therefore plan to scale up the project immediately to include 20 kindergartens with 100 teachers, reaching approximately 1,100 children.
To realise this goal, we urgently need cash donations and/or food parcels to support these children for the next three months. We are also reaching out to international donors to allow further expansion to 350 kindergartens in the near future. Please contact us (details below) if you would like to donate to this project.
Regular updates on our progress with the Covid-19 Emergency Programme can be downloaded from our Publications page.