Amref Health Africa and the National Business Compact on Coronavirus (NBCC) jointly hosted a national press event at the Amref International University (AMIU), Nairobi, today to mark this year’s Global Handwashing Day. This event, co-organised by other grantees of the Unilever-FCDO Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition, WSUP and PS Kenya, set the tone and built momentum for the government-led celebrations to be held in Homa Bay County on the 15th October.
This year’s Global Handwashing Day, with the theme Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene, marks the 14th edition of this important advocacy day established to advocate for handwashing with soap at home, in the community and around the world. Handwashing with clean running water and soap is proven to be an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to ensure equitable access to good hand hygiene practices to protect lives and livelihoods from viruses and bacteria. The press event served to further raise the profile of handwashing with soap, while also integrating key messaging on the importance of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The event was graced by government officials and the private sector including Copia, Pulse Live, Equity Afia, Lixil, Shujaaz, AIfluence, AdSimu and Project Hand Up. Inua Dada foundation and Rotary International were also ably represented.
One of the key highlights was a panel discussion on the topic of hand hygiene and the importance of combining various hygiene behaviours with vaccination. The session moderated by Ms. Janet Mbugua was comprised of Dr Prof. Myriam Sidibe, Chair of the NBCC and Founder of Brands on a Mission, Dr. Margaret Njenga, PS Kenya’s Chief Operating Officer, Ms Jackline Kiarie,Regional Programme Manager - Global Health Security Unit, Amref Health Africa and Vikas Mehta, the Chief Executive Officer of Ogilvy Africa.
In his opening remarks, Amref’s CEO Dr. Gitahi Githinji said that the day represents an opportunity to replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. He further noted, “the pandemic allowed for the elevation and appreciation of correct handwashing as it served as one of the key interventions for tackling Covid-19”.
Prof. Myriam Sidibe added her voice, noting the significant reduction of a broad spectrum of diseases attributed to handwashing during the pandemic period. As one of the leading global authorities on handwashing and a co-founder of Global Handwashing Day, Prof. Sidibe encouraged stakeholders not to lose momentum with the practice of, or messaging around, handwashing as doing so would have major implications. She noted, “when done right, handwashing leads to healthier communities and a reduced burden on the health system. When ignored, the opposite reigns”.
During the function, dignitaries and guests participated in a simultaneous mass handwashing exercise at 11:11am EAT. This was agreed to be the key moment that would be targeted across all three programme countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. This powerfully demonstrated the seven key steps of handwashing while reinforcing the call to action for other like-minded partners to unite for universal hand hygiene.