While soap is something many of us may take for granted, the Cambodian Community Dream Organisation (CCDO) and Eco-Soap Bank are working hard to ensure that communities in Cambodia and Laos are equipped with this simple but essential weapon in their fight against COVID-19 and beyond.
Much has been said about the power of the humble soap against the COVID-19 virus. While the world awaits the development of effective and affordable vaccines and drugs against the virus, soap remains one of the best and most accessible means of prevention. But access to soap has been an important part of improving global health before the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be so after the pandemic. For that matter, efforts to improve hygiene education and soap distribution are likely to benefit communities in the long-run by fighting the spread of preventable diseases worldwide, through the pandemic and beyond.
Eco-Soap Bank is a charity that’s founded precisely on the recognition of the importance of soap, and has been committed towards recycling hotel soap for distribution to developing countries around the world even before the pandemic. Founded in Cambodia in 2014, the charity has since expanded to 10 countries across Africa and Asia and supplied over 650,000 people with soap and hygiene education In Southeast Asia, Eco-Soap Bank operates in Cambodia and Laos. The charity lists three main objectives in its work:
Contribute a highly cost-effective hygiene product to improve health.
Significantly reduce the waste generated by the hotel industry.
Provide livelihoods and free education to disadvantaged women with no other reliable source of income.
Designed to be simple, efficient and scalable, Eco-Soap Bank’s operation also creates employment for local women from disadvantaged backgrounds who are able to earn a steady wage for their families as soap recyclers. (Source: Eco-Soap Bank)
Eco-Soap Bank’s COVID-19 response is currently prioritising their global supply chain for healthcare workers worldwide and for those living in severely underserved areas. The charity has distributed soap to virtually every single healthcare institution in Cambodia, including government health clinics, hospitals, and quarantine facilities. The distribution is crucially accompanied with hand-washing demonstrations, carried out in collaboration with local partners, that has reached nearly 15,000 people living in villages.
One of Eco-Soap Bank’s partners is the Cambodian Community Dream Organisation (CCDO), whose tuk-tuk team has helped to distribute 6,000 recycled hotel soaps to local villages. CCDO’s usual work has a broader focus in terms of improving education, water access and hygiene and sanitation in Cambodia. Focusing on rural areas of Siem Reap, The charity’s mission is to promote sustainable village development, and is involved in a range of different projects from providing clean water to supporting social enterprises and preventing child-trafficking.
Children with the soap bars from Eco-Soap Bank distributed by CCDO. (Source: CCDO)
CCDO’s website provides the opportunity for donors to donate to specific projects or causes, as well as a general donation for the organisation to divert funds to where it is most needed. In response to the pandemic, CCDO has set up a specific COVID-19 relief fund, which seeks to provide masks, soaps and education to 129,000 villagers in 86 villages. CCDO is also helping the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) in Cambodia by providing online English lessons for children across the country whose education has been affected due to the pandemic, in addition to strengthening and revising their existing food provision and education programmes. Given the holistic nature of CCDO’s activities, we are thus confident that their COVID-19 efforts can be well-integrated and embedded within the daily lives of Cambodian villagers.
The work by Eco-Soap Bank and CCDO reminds us that for many communities in Southeast Asia, even something as simple as soap should not be taken for granted. As much as the current pandemic is a moment of crisis, Eco-Soap Bank and CCDO are also actively seeking to transform the crisis into an opportunity to lay down foundations that can drive sustainable and long-term improvements for health and village development in the long run.