The power of a bar of soap in the world's largest refugee camp

Mar 28, 2020
In a sprawling refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 11-year-old Nurankis receives her family’s monthly soap supply. World Vision is helping keep thousands of Rohingya refugees safe from COVID-19 by making regular hand-washing possible. Photo: Himaloy Joseph Mree 

Life in large, overcrowded refugee camps brings much higher risk when there’s no way to stay clean. This situation can be especially dangerous in a global pandemic. 

But thanks to training from development workers and community volunteers across the globe, millions of children are already phenomenal hand-washers. Many could teach Canadian kids a thing or two.

“We should wash our hands when we come back home in the evening, after playing,” says Shusina, 12 years old. “And we should wash our hands before eating.” 

But, without soap, children aren’t amply armed to ward off deadly viruses like COVID-19. Simple soap and water are one of the best defences against the virus, says the World Health Organization. 

Watch this video to learn how World Vision is helping Rohingya refugees prepare and protect themselves from COVID-19:

That’s why World Vision is partnering with UNICEF, in places like Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to put soap in the hands of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Families receive 10 bars of soap and five bars of laundry soap monthly. Other hand-washing stations are strategically placed at key gathering places around the camp. 

Soap isn’t as effective if the water is dirty, but thousands of Rohingya children don’t have to worry about that. 

Just as the COVID-19 virus was ramping up, World Vision was installing a solar-powered water network in one of the 27 camps in Cox’s Bazar. The system, funded by Global Affairs Canada, provides clean, drinkable water to 5,000 refugees each day.

“Before, we only bathed once or twice a week and rarely washed our clothes,” says Shahanara, a 25-year-old mother of three young children. Rohingya families now have enough fresh water available 24 hours a day.

Since the beginning of the Rohingya response in 2017, World Vision has been teaching proper handwashing in the camp, helping prevent the spread of deadly viruses and infections. 

Learn how you can help children like Shusina and Nurankis living in the world's largest refugee camp.

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