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How should hygiene kits be adjusted for COVID-19 response?
How should hygiene kits be adjusted for COVID-19 response?
Sian White avatar
Written by Sian White
Updated over a week ago

As a general principle hygiene kits should be in line with Sphere Standards and national government or WASH Cluster guidelines that are adapted to include products which are locally acceptable. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be advisable to increase the amount of soap and cleaning products that are being provided to families. If there is more soap and cleaning products available via hygiene kits, then people will use these resources less sparingly and the frequency of hygiene practices may increase. There are already many good examples of hygiene kit provisions being increased in camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in response to COVID-19. Distributing good quality hygiene kits, with sufficient soap, has been shown to have an important impact on disease transmission in other outbreaks particularly when combined with hygiene promotion.  

Prior to increasing the supply of soap or other hygiene items within kits consider the following: 

  • Sustainability - Make sure you can maintain this throughout the outbreak (assume enough supply for 6 months for an average size household in your context). 

  • Standard kit items - Also make sure you are still able to provide all other basic components of hygiene kits in your context. 

  • Broader effect on markets - Consider doing a Rapid Market Assessment to ensure that your organisation’s procurement will not have a detrimental effect on product pricing or the broader market availability of soap or other cleaning products, given that soap is likely to be in high demand throughout the COVID-19 response (see some example tools here from UNHCR and Oxfam). 

  • Selecting soap - All types of soap are effective for preventing the transmission of COVID-19. There is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective under normal use conditions. However when deciding what soap to provide, make sure that it is not harsh on hands. In other crisis affected settings, nicer quality soap was reported to facilitate good handwashing practice. 

  • Selecting cleaning products - When adding cleaning products to hygiene kits, specialised cleaning products are not necessary during this time, and standard bleach-based products or disinfectants should be sufficient

Example of an unadjusted UNICEF hygiene kit asused for emergency response in the Philippines. 

If alcohol-based hand rub is available in your country, consider including this in hygiene kit distribution. However make sure people understand that handwashing with soap and water is just as effective at removing and killing SARS-CoV-2. Alcohol-based hand rub must contain at least 60% alcohol in order to be effective. 

At this stage the distribution of surgical masks, N95 respirators or gloves are not recommended as these need to be prioritised for health staff or those who are sick. 

Depending on the set up in the camp or community, distribution of materials to individuals or groups (e.g. members of WASH committees) to enable cleaning of communal areas and toilets may also be needed. This may include some basic PPE such as rubber “marigold” type gloves (these should be disinfected after each use and hands should be washed with soap) or disposable gloves (these should be disposed of safely after use and hands should be washed with soap), masks, additional cleaning products (such as bleach-based cleaning agents)  and greater access to water. 

Rubber gloves, also known as “Marigolds”

Editor's note

Author: Sian White
Review: Tom Heath, Lauren D'Mello-Guyett
Last update: 15.04.2020

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