WASH and COVID-19 in Humanitarian Settings: How can we improve hygiene behaviors?

Featuring: Dr. Les Roberts, Columbia University; Sian White, LSHTM; Caroline Muturi, Oxfam; Dr. Hani Taleb, Relief Experts Association

This webinar focused on community-level preventative behaviors for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in crisis-affected settings. In particular, speakers discussed handwashing promotion and physical distancing measures in these challenging settings. We began with a global overview of why these behaviors can be challenging to promote in crisis-affected settings and provided some practical solutions. We then heard two case studies sharing examples of current work and the challenges of implementing preventative programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.

Follow-up questions will be posted in READY’s discussion forum shortly.

Moderator: Dr. Les Roberts, Columbia University
Les Roberts is a Professor at Columbia University’s Program on Forced Migration and Health. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and completed a post-doctorate fellowship in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control’s Refugee Health Unit. Les was the Director of Health Policy at the International Rescue Committee from 1999-2003.  He has been involved in the fieldwork of over 50 mortality surveys in conflict settings including in DRC, Zimbabwe, CAR, and Iraq. His present research focuses on developing statistically representative community-based surveillance methodologies.

Expert Speakers

  • Sian White, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: Sian is a behavior change scientist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She specializes in WASH program design in crisis-affected settings. Sian recently helped set up the COIVD-19 Hygiene Hub, which is a free service to help actors in low- and middle-income countries rapidly share, design, and adapt evidence-based hygiene interventions to combat coronavirus. For the last four years, Sian has been the lead researcher on the Wash’Em project, which enables humanitarians to rapidly design context-adapted hygiene programs in crises. Sian holds a Master of Public Health degree in Developing Countries and is currently completing her Ph.D. based on research in Iraq and DRC.
  • Caroline Muturi, Oxfam: Caroline is part of Oxfam’s Global Humanitarian Support Personnel and specializes in WASH. She is currently supporting local teams in DR Congo, Bangladesh, and India for COVID-19 response. Caroline is a water engineer and holds a Master’s degree in water management. In recent years she has broadened her technical scope to cover behavior change communication and community engagement during outbreaks.
  • Dr. Hani Taleb, Relief Experts Association: Hani is the CEO of Relief Experts Association (UDER), a health-focused NGO operating in Northwest Syria (NWS). He has overseen emergency health programs since 2011 with the International Rescue Committee, Relief International, Medical Teams International, and other Syrian NGOs. He is a member of the COVID-19 health taskforce leading the response in NWS, and he is leading the Corona Awareness Team which is formed by organizations working on enhancing community-based preventive measures against COVID-19. He is a doctor in dental surgery and holds postgraduate diplomas in orthodontics, public health, and health management.
United States Agency for International Development Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, Save the Children, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, UK Med, EcoHealth Alliance, Mercy Malaysia

This website is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). READY is led by Save the Children in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, UK-Med, EcoHealth Alliance, and Mercy Malaysia. Site contents are the responsibility of READY and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.