Proper Handwashing Can Prevent Disease and Save Lives

ShelterBox USA
18 September 2020

Mariamou lives in the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon. Latter-day Saint Charities and ShelterBox worked together to make sure she and her family have soap to wash their hands during the coronavirus pandemic.

How to Wash Your Hands

During COVID-19, washing your hands is more important than ever. However, people around the world may face challenges when it comes to handwashing. For example, when a family is displaced by disaster or conflict, it is very likely that they left their soap behind. ShelterBox, one of Latter-day Saint Charities’ disaster relief partners, wanted to make sure that children and their families were able to wash their hands during this pandemic, even if they are living far away from home and in a tent. We gave families portable wash basins and soap and gave them a lesson on proper hand washing hygiene to keep them healthy and reduce their chances of catching COVID.

ShelterBox uses guidelines from the Word Health Organization, or WHO, and local country standards to teach handwashing. (See “Clean Care is Safer Care” to learn about these guidelines.

Mariamou, A Nigerian Refugee in Minawao Camp, Cameroon

Mariamou is a Nigerian refugee living in Minawao Camp in Cameroon. Living in a tent with her family in the camp, it is important they can self-isolate and practice hand washing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Here’s what Mariamou shared with us about her experience:

Are you concerned about the coronavirus?

I have heard about the coronavirus, and I feel concerned by the disease, even though nobody here is sick yet. Many organizations have made us aware of the danger and the precautions we need to take.

I know that preventing that disease means washing hands regularly, using masks to cover the nose and mouth, avoiding shaking hands, and avoiding crowded places. If someone visits me, I shall ask them to wash their hands before coming into my house. When I go to out, as I do not have a face mask, I cover my face with my scarf.

Mariamou, at her home in Minawao. Latter-day Saint Charities and ShelterBox USA provided Mariamou with tarps, a kitchen set, and other household items to help her family self-isolate during the pandemic. ©ShelterBox USA

What are the challenges you face in trying to keep yourself and your family protected from the virus?

The main challenge I face is financial—there is no money to buy soap every time or to buy face masks to cover our faces. There is no water near to the camp, and the water we do have is dirty. It is not easy to respect the distancing measures here on the camp because we are used to living in groups.

How do you think the aid items you have received might help you?

The items I have received allow me to protect myself and my family by staying at home and avoiding being contaminated if the virus arrives at the camp. (Mariamou received a washbasin and soap from Latter-day Saints Charities and ShelterBox, alongside a shelter and basic household items.)

Mariamou at her home in Minawao, using her washbasin and soap provided by Latter-day Saint Charities and ShelterBox USA to wash her hands. ©ShelterBox USA