Ensuring no one is left behind in COVID-19 and climate change response

With support from Australia, through Water for Women, East Meets West, a program of Thrive Networks, is working hard with the Vietnam Women's Union to ensure no one is left behind in the COVID-19 and drought response.

Women’s Union officers handing over Labobo Handwashing device to local households in Ha Tinh. Photo: Ngo Dinh Le Dung – Senior Program Officer, WOBA Vietnam

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented challenges worldwide and in Vietnam in particular. Although the Vietnamese government has taken effective and timely measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, its complicated developments coupled with extreme climate events, especially the severe drought and entailed saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta.

This context has had profound impacts on the vulnerable populations of Vietnam, including poor women, children and other disadvantaged groups such as elderly and people with disabilities. The need for basic social services like clean water and sanitation among these groups has become even more pressing in the context of numerous difficulties resulting from the pandemic and the drought. A water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response is critical to both.

In an effort to alleviate the combined impacts of the pandemic and the drought, Thrive Networks - East Meets West in collaboration with the Vietnam Women’s Union has instigated a VND 2.4 billion program called "Women’s initiatives in ensuring no one is left behind in the fight against COVID-19.”

In any crisis, it is the most vulnerable - women, children and people with disabilities - who are among those worst affected. With support from Australia, through their established Water for Women project, Women-led Output Based Aid (WOBA) project, the program targets the most vulnerable communities in five provinces, including Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Ben Tre.

As part of the nationwide response initiated by the Vietnamese government, “Joining hands in the fight against COVID-19 towards the goal of leaving no one behind”, the program has conducted multiple activities across 173 communes in the project provinces.

So far, 2,018 handwashing facilities and soaps have been provided to all commune health stations, 173 kindergartens and 980 vulnerable households. About 200 poor and vulnerable households have been equipped with water storage containers for rainwater harvesting.

Locals getting fresh water from water filtration kiosk in Tan My commune of Ben Tre province.

A local Women's Union member was taking drinking water from EMW's water kiosk to vulnerable poor households who had no access to fresh water during the drought and seawater intrusion in Ben Tre province. Photo credit: East Meets West in Vietnam

Besides in-kind support, the program has also conducted a WASH needs assessment in 173 commune health stations and extended technical assistance to Women’s Union and the health sector in the five provinces by developing and disseminating COVID-19 communication materials and hygiene practices messaging to households and disadvantaged communities.

The program is also looking at non-conventional messaging and training methods such as digital training and gender and social inclusion training videos to broaden stakeholders’ capacity development coverage whilst ensuring they remain COVID-19 safe.

According to Water for Women, while this program was initially designed to provide immediate response measures to counter COVID-19 and drought impacts, it has gone the extra mile by leveraging women’s initiatives and promoting partnerships in order to strengthen the most vulnerable populations’ resilience and preparedness now and for future shocks.

Minh Nguyen