Muslim Aid’s hygiene education classes in schools and the building of reservoirs and latrines are postponed indefinitely
Interviews available with Pakistan Head of Programmes Jannat Durrani Current urgent sanitation projects which Muslim Aid Pakistan has been working on are now on hold, due to social distancing restrictions and partial lockdown. “While it is obviously necessary and important to practice social distancing, the problem is that putting our work on hold will ultimately be worse for people at the bottom of the poverty ladder,” says Pakistan Head of Programme Jannar Durrani.
Muslim Aid has long-standing excellent working relationships with the government's national and provincial disaster management authorities in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan which is an arid region prone to droughts and in Punjab which is experiencing recurring floods, with a mostly non-literate population.
Twelve hundred latrines construction were planned in Punjab, water reservoirs were due to be constructed in Balochistan, water pumps repaired and school children offered hygiene clubs to educate them about essential sanitation. “It’s very frustrating, as we now can’t reach out to these people, many of whom live a very long way from clean water,” adds Ms Durrani. “The prospects are dire.” Many Pakistani citizens, particularly women, are now calling Muslim Aid’s office to ask when food packs will be available, as their families are going hungry. These are people without steady jobs, such as cleaners, masons, taxi and rickshaw drivers, and people who run small food stalls in streets. They have no job security now social distancing is in place, and are desperate.
Muslim Aid has launched a Coronavirus Appeal (see below), which will channel funds towards Pakistan and 12 other countries. Muslim Aid Pakistan is relying on this Appeal to enable them to buy Personal Protection kits for medical staff and food packs for families.
Muslim Aid Pakistan also works in Punjab Province, which is better in terms of access to water compared to Balochistan. However, we are working in the riverine areas where the water can often be polluted, due to flooding and defecation in public due to lack of latrines. “We believe we need to give tangible items as our first priority,” explains Ms Durrani. “We will then move to behavioural issues, although of course, we are issuing warnings via social media.” The office has already handed over two ambulances to government authorities. Plans include:
• Construction of handwashing facilities in Balochistan.
• Food packs to Punjab, Balochistan and Islamabad (projects on outskirts of city targeting vulnerable girls who need skills to earn)
• Personal Protective Equipment kits for health facilities
• Household hygiene kits in Punjab, Balochistan and Islamabad.
Muslim Aid’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal is fundraising for vulnerable people worldwide, countries include Somalia, Bangladesh, Gaza, Myanmar and Sudan.