• Foster and support a general culture of handwashing with soap in all societies.
• Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country.
• Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.
We dissect these objectives to better understand the why behind the day.
1. Foster and support a general culture of handwashing with soap in all societies.
Global Handwashing Day serves as a yearly reminder that handwashing with soap and water is one of the best steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Studies show regular and consistent handwashing helps keep away opportunistic diseases, respiratory diseases and other highly contagious diseases like Ebola, SARS and Covid-19.
To successfully do it right and keep the diseases away, handwashing has to be done right. Using running water and soap with the person washing their hands taking time to rub soap on their hands making sure all areas up to the wrist are covered and the rubbing action uses enough strength to dislodge dirt. Once this is done, with clean running water the hands need to be rinsed and dried.
This needs to be repeated several times a day most notably before eating, after visiting the toilet, before and after touching food and or after using public facilities including transport, super market carts among others. Cognizant that handwashing facilities are not everywhere, people are encouraged to be careful about what and where they touch and where possible carry sanitizers to help disinfect their hands.
2. Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country.
Globally, handwashing has not received the attention it deserves as compared to its cousins water and sanitation despite providing equal value to the hygiene narrative. According to the UN and WHO, over 3 billion people globally still do not have access to handwashing facilities thus exposing them to the risks associated with dirty hands.
Further the studies of over 30 countries show majority do not have statistics, budgets, policies, laws, regulations and or dedicated human resources to champion a case for hand washing with only 2 of the 30 countries having dedicated and deliberate efforts towards improving hand washing in their countries.
The study also showed very few countries carried handwashing in their school curriculum given that school lessons have lasting impact on individual lives. It observed that a huge opportunity is being missed and recommends the need to incorporate hand washing and the reasons behind its importance in the school curriculums.
Despite this and with the efforts of private entities, a number of projects have been implemented and with them significant improvements have been realized in the general state of hand washing globally. Indeed Covid-19 exposed the seriousness of the inter and intra country handwashing gap and measures are being put in place at different levels to grant citizens access to hand washing facilities.
Further, given the above challenges and scarcity of resources, many communities have adapted coping mechanisms some that need to be unlearnt in favor of newer and better practices. To this end global hand washing campaigns are being championed on two fronts; giving access and imparting behaviour change practices that will make handwashing a normal and consistent thing for everyone.
3. Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.
Our hands represent a lot of things for the success of the human race. Our ability to grip, use tools and so much more has helped the advancement of the human race and thus it is only fair that we learn how to keep them safe and keep us safe.
Given that hands do so and are the primary organ for the sense of touch, they are exposed to a lot of dirt and pathogens that can enter our bodies through our eyes, mouths, noses among others. It is thus imperative to create and reinforce the linkages as well as narrow the knowledge gap between clean hands and healthy communities.
By keeping our hands clean, we do not only ward off diseases we also keep our loved ones safe. Further by keeping safe we save a lot on medical services, reduce lost working hours ad become more productive members of our communities. Further for children and the elderly, opportunistic diseases can be fatal and so clean hands help reduce mortality from preventable causes.
To realize this, behaviour change narratives are being introduced to not only encourage people to wash their hands regularly and in the right way; the narrative is also being used to reaffirm and inprint new and better practices by over writing those that regress the progress made.
Thus as we celebrate the Global Hand Washing Day 2020 under the theme Hygiene For All, we need to keep the conversation going by not only talking about it but also practicing proper hand hygiene. In doing so, we make the practice more acceptable, and unleash a chain reaction of healthy and clean individuals around us.