Global Handwashing Day: Making handwashing a habit


October 14th, 2016

For many of us, washing our hands is a habit acquired from childhood. We unconsciously wash our hands after using the bathroom, eating and preparing meals.

Teaching children how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

One of Practical Action’s projects – providing handwashing facilities and teaching children in Peru how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

But globally the hand washing habit has yet to completely solidify, mainly due to lack of soap and water or lack of awareness and understanding of its effectiveness in washing away illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

That’s why on October 15, hundreds of thousands of schools, community groups, organizations, and governments will join together to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It’s a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old.

Every day, around 2,000 children die from diarrhoea. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the number of these deaths by up to 50%, but many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.

This year, Practical Action is using Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

Our team in Nakuru, Kenya, for example, is going to Hyrax Hill primary school to give 2,500 pupils and 500 community members a demonstration on how to wash their hands properly.

Peter Murigi, Practical Action’s urban water, sanitation and hygiene specialist in Kenya, said: “We want to foster and support a culture of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap at critical times.

“This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is “Make handwashing a habit”. The event is a good opportunity to draw attention to the need for change, from individuals, families and governments and by asking for better hygiene policies and commitment to promote better hygiene practices.”

In Bangladesh, we are partnering with other NGOs and the Bangladesh Government’s Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) to celebrate the day both centrally in Dhaka and locally. In Dhaka, we’re taking part in a campaign rally and a meeting organised by the DPHE as a co-organiser. Locally, we are the lead organisation in celebrating the day in three districts: Faridpur, Satkhira and Bagerhat.

Practical Action delivers significant water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and we are ambitious to do more. We promote the community-led sanitation approach with partners and local governments, demonstrating best practice and developing innovative technologies for clean water and waste management. And we work with national and city governments to ensure that poor people are included in sanitation planning.

In Nakuru we have delivered an ambitious project, funded by Comic Relief, to improve the quality of life for slum communities of 190,000 people, by providing access to safe, hygienic toilets and handwashing facilities. You can find out more about that project here and find out what Jack Owino, a headteacher of a school in Kenya, has to say about the impact it has had on staff and children at his school.

Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

In Bangladesh we have been working with UNICEF in 500 communities and 200 schools across Dhaka and Sylhet to improve sanitation and promote a change in hygiene behaviour.

Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

It has changed the lives of 70,000 students. They are healthier, happier, are able to attend school more regularly and their performance at school has improved. Find out more in this blog by Alamgir Chowdhury in our Bangladesh urban services team.

Projects like this depend on your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to make handwashing a habit.

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