Global Handwashing Day, 2015
Despite its apparent simplicity, handwashing with soap is one of the most effective health interventions for individuals and communities. The largest benefit to be gained is a significant reduction in the spread of gastro-intestinal diseases, respiratory infections, and other illnesses related to the ingestion of minute traces of faeces1. As “50% of cases of child undernutrition are due to repeated diarrhea and intestinal infections” 2 and the top two killers of children under 5 world-wide are diarrheal diseases and pneumonia3, this message is particularly relevant for school age children, young children, and their caregivers, especially considering how relatively cheap handwashing can be to achieve.
Live & Learn teams across the Pacific took part in celebrations for Global Handwashing Day, an event that highlights and advocates for the importance of handwashing as a measure for good health and disease prevention. For 2015, the Global Handwashing theme was “Raise a Hand for Hygiene”, which was associated with the key handwashing and advocacy ideas of speaking up, deciding to be a hygiene and handwashing champion/advocate, affiliating with others to create change, counting the number of people who have access to hygiene facilities and wash their hands, and drawing government attention to the need for improvements in handwashing outcomes4.
Building on Live & Learn’s work on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the Western Pacific, Global Handwashing Day was an excellent opportunity to both celebrate and advocate for the importance of handwashing and the benefits that it brings to local communities. For example, In Vanuatu, two half-day events were held at Olwie Primary School and Saint Joseph Primary School, which are both working with Live & Learn on piloting approaches to WASH in schools. At both schools, students participated in a clean-up session, followed by a handwashing with soap drill. After this, teachers who were also school WASH club or school WASH committee members led speeches and discussions about the importance of handwashing and the consequences of poor or non-existent handwashing practices. After this, Saint-Joseph Primary School showcased a miniature drama piece about a boy not washing his hands and then spreading germs to his friends when playing soccer. Both schools then concluded with all students going through the “steps to good hand washing” in groups of four.
For the celebrations in Fiji, four half-day events were organised in schools where Live & Learn projects had been piloted, including the hosting of a national celebration launched by the Honorable Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services, Veena Bhatnagar, and attended by representatives from UNICEF and other organisations actively supporting handwashing. A variety of events were implemented across the schools to support and advocate for handwashing, such as poster competitions, poetry writing, a presentation on the 2015 theme “Raise a Hand for Hygiene”, a stage piece about the 7 steps for proper handwashing, and handwashing with soap drills that involved whole schools. Colgate Palmolive also helped with the Global Handwashing Day celebrations, providing 174 Fijian schools with free bar soap and liquid soap.
In Papua New Guinea, Patricia Taoriva, a schools partner for Live & Learn, worked together with the child advocacy club “Joyful Friends” to organise the Global Handwashing Day events. This started with a mentoring session for students by the Head Boy, which involved the Head Boy speaking to students about health behaviours and good behaviour at school, followed by a large handwashing with soap demonstration in the school assembly grounds, which involved most of the children in Grade 3.
Finally, for the Solomon Islands celebrations, Global Handwashing Day was celebrated in combination with the International Rural Women’s Day celebrations at the Honiara Central Market. The central event for the day, which was organised by UN Women’s Markets for Change program, was a series of speeches from UN Women about topics such as working together with rural female market vendors to renovate the sanitation facilities at the market, to make the markets safer for rural women to participate in market vending. Following this, Live & Learn conducted a demonstration of hygienic hand washing using tippy taps, a simple technology that is easy for rural women to adapt and use in their home context, even when there is a scarcity of water. This was again complemented by activities in a Live & Learn pilot school in Honiara.
Global Handwashing Day 2015 was an excellent opportunity for the Live & Learn teams to not only advocate and motivate communities, schools, and a range of partners, towards improved hand-washing outcomes but also to celebrate and build on the achievements that has already been made in improving health and hygiene in the Pacific.
To find out more about Global Handwashing Day and handwashing, please see:
- Live & Learn’s key handwashing resources:
- Education and training resources
- Advanced methods for turning handwashing into a habit: http://globalhandwashing.org/learn/key-topics/behavior-change/
- Free professional courses on handwashing: http://globalhandwashing.org/learn/education-modules/
- Global events and advocacy
- Celebrations of Global Handwashing Day across the world: http://globalhandwashing.org/global-handwashing-day/get-involved/submit-events/view-events/
- The world speaks- a range of global sources discussing the importance of handwashing and Global Handwashing Day: http://globalhandwashing.org/media-blog-coverage/