Regular handwashing with soap can have a major impact on combatting diarrhoeal diseases – the second leading cause of death in children under five years old.
Its simple, its cheap, it saves lives – and yet around the world many people do not regularly wash their hands with soap.
This is why Global Handwashing Day, on Saturday, is such an important campaign: raising awareness of the impact that regular handwashing can have on better health.
Handwashing promotion focuses on children, who are both highly susceptible to diarrhoea and open to adopting new practices that can spread throughout the rest of the community. So schools are a key focus for promoting handwashing and making it easier for good practice to become a regular habit.
But its not just about changing behaviours of schoolchildren.
WSUP’s approach to handwashing is based on our belief that it is equally important to focus on behaviour change within educational and city institutions, to remove factors that could discourage handwashing.
For example, what’s the point in encouraging children to wash their hands before eating, if a toilet block is designed with just one tap for an entire school? Or if a school is not given the budget to purchase soap, because good hygiene is not seen as a high priority?
In Ghana, we are adopting user-centred design principles to create school toilets that are designed for children’s needs. We hope to create best practice designs which can be rolled out across schools in Accra, Kumasi and beyond.
And in Bangladesh, we’re working with teacher training colleges to ensure that teachers know how best to teach handwashing. We have also created a database of sanitation facilities in 14,000 schools which we are using to inform national education policies.
Here’s a flavour of how we will mark Global Handwashing Day tomorrow:
In Kenya, the Ministry of Health is focusing events on the county of Nakuru. WSUP will support the County Public Health Office in promoting the importance of handwashing with soap to both residents and school children in Nakuru.
We will also be involved in celebrations and awareness sessions, led by Governor of Nakuru, and attended by other senior officials from the Ministry of Public Health.
We’ll be joining national events led by the Ministry of Water in the Commune of Tsaramandroso, close to the city of Mahajanga – including demonstration of handwashing best practices and a performance by local musicians.
WSUP is supporting four communes to promote handwashing behaviour not just during Global Handwashing Day but beyond the campaign, to help embed handwashing as an essential sanitation practice.
As part of our work to improve conditions in 10 primary schools in Maputo, we will conduct a simple survey to obtain information on handwashing practices and state of the toilets in each of the schools. The results will be shared with the schools and city authorities to inform their approach towards improving handwashing.
We’ll be participating in the national Global Handwashing Day in Dhaka on Saturday, helping the City Corporation and four districts to support the campaign.
To mark the Day, we plan to promote handwashing to a total of 176 schools in 32 districts in Dhaka and beyond. 37 schools have already taken the opportunity to celebrate Global Handwashing Day earlier in the month, engaging nearly 13,000 students. Unilever has provided 74,000 soap bars to facilitate this activity. This work forms part of the South Asia WASH Results (SAWR) Programme to improve handwashing practices, in partnership with Unilever Bangladesh.