Handwashing stations and education: the NALA Foundation works to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ethiopia

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By Elyse Greenblatt, Associate, Progams The END Fund’s first grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund was to The NALA Foundation. This was our inaugural project with NALA. They have been working in Ethiopia since 2008 with the goal of eliminating diseases of poverty, specifically those related to limited access to clean water and sanitation. NALA’s…

By Elyse Greenblatt, Associate, Progams

The END Fund’s first grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund was to The NALA Foundation. This was our inaugural project with NALA. They have been working in Ethiopia since 2008 with the goal of eliminating diseases of poverty, specifically those related to limited access to clean water and sanitation. NALA’s successful model for disease prevention led them to partner with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to provide technical assistance to the National Neglected Tropical disease (NTD) Control Program in 2016. They also work closely with regional health centers and local universities throughout the country.

NALA’s model focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health education, and drug administration. When the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ethiopia in March, NALA put its efforts and expertise into addressing this threat and has been working nonstop since. By the beginning of May, NALA constructed and installed over 80 handwashing stations that are centrally located near health facilities, churches, markets, bus stations, shelters for internally displaced people, and prisons.

On the left: a worker constructs the frame for a handwashing station.
On the right: an operational handwashing station.

In addition to the handwashing stations, NALA delivered infection prevention and control materials for health centers to sites in Gondar, Mekelle, Adwa, Bench Maji Zone, and Addis Ababa.  A traditional and social media behavioral change campaign focusing on modes of transmission and the importance of social distancing took place with extensive radio programming and Facebook messaging reaching over 300,000 people.

While this is our first formal partnership, both the END Fund and NALA have been working to support the FMoH’s NTD control and elimination efforts for many years. We are looking forward to learning how these supportive interventions enhance our support for the FMoH’s broader NTD control and elimination goals.

The focus on hygiene promotion as a tool for prevention is not only essential for the slow down of transmission and prevention of COVID-19 but also for many NTDs as well. NALA’s expertise and experience in WASH and behavioral change is crucial in the short-term but will have positive spillover effects as it will help prevent the future spread of other communicable diseases such as the NTDs that are endemic to Ethiopia.