Handwashing Day Special—15 October
“Handwashing with soap is one of the simplest and cost-effective practices to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. It has also proved to be a lifesaving first line of defense against the deadly COVID-19 virus”Isabelle Bardem Sévédé, Chief, UNICEF Rajasthan Office
Rajasthan, 15 October 2021:
Handwashing with soap is one of the simplest and cost-effective practices to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. It has also proved to be a lifesaving first line of defense against the deadly COVID-19 virus. The message of ‘hand hygiene for all’ is further highlighted on 15th October, which is celebrated globally as handwashing day.
Availability of water, sanitation, and handwashing facility and soap provides an enabling environment for improving handwashing practice at critical times. Roll out of Jal Jeevan Mission in Rajasthan has accelerated the pace of piped water connectivity to all households with priority coverage of Anganwadi centers, schools, and residential schools. To ensure that handwashing with soap becomes a daily practice in children, it is important to promote localized water-efficient solutions in remote schools facing water scarcity. To address the infrastructure gap, the installation of a low-cost child-friendly handwashing station is being demonstrated in select schools and co-located Anganwadi centers in geographically remote locations in desert and tribal-dominated districts of Rajasthan.
Handwashing with soap is not only about creating facilities but also an issue linked with knowledge and practice, field observations have revealed that only three out of ten people wash their hands with soap before meals, and seven out of ten people wash their hands with soap after defecation. This can lead to the potential spread of fecal-oral contamination amongst people.
Handwashing with soap at critical times especially after using the toilet, before preparing food, eating, or feeding a child, and after coughing/sneezing, contributes to improved personal hygiene affecting overall child’s development and school attendance.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), keeping hands clean can prevent one in three diarrheal illnesses and one in five respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu, and prevent COVID-19.
Handwashing with soap can be inculcated as a habit in young children by parents, and caregivers to prevent gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, trachoma, and worm infestation. It gets further reinforced at Anganwadi center by the frontline worker/helper and then taken forward by teachers at schools. It provides the foundation for early adoption of the practice of handwashing with soap among children. Besides, children are known to be effective influencers as they carry the message to their homes and community helping them to adopt the practice.
To ensure that the gains of the handwashing with soap are sustained as a cost-effective practice there is a need for coordinated and concerted efforts by various stakeholders including government, civil society organizations, academic institutions, businesses, community members, frontline workers, caregivers, and children. This approach would be effective in achieving this year’s global handwashing day theme on “Our Future is at Hand—Let’s Move Forward Together”.