“You have come from Mumbai to teach us about handwashing?”
The villagers couldn’t stop laughing at Yusuf Kabir. He works at UNICEF’s Mumbai office, in a division with an apt acronym—WASH, for water, sanitation, and hygiene—and he was on a tour of the Latur district, some 250 miles east of Mumbai, to advocate hand hygiene as a safeguard of health. In Latur, as elsewhere in the state of Maharashtra, Kabir was learning that handwashing just wasn’t a priority for many villagers. “They couldn’t see any tangible impact,” he recalls.
That was long before the COVID-19 pandemic.