Guest authors Katie Carroll and Patricia Mantey from the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing.
For the fifth consecutive year, on October 15, 2012, hundreds of millions of people around the world will celebrate Global Handwashing Day. This year we have much to celebrate. In 2011, 600,000 fewer children under five died than in 2008, the first year Global Handwashing Day was celebrated. In 2012, Global Handwashing Day will share its fifth birthday with more than 121 million children who are also turning five this year.
Thanks to the support of USAID and other public and private partners, Global Handwashing Day has grown from a one-day celebration in a few cities to a worldwide movement for handwashing with soap. The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW) and its partners encourage everyone to join in our fifth birthday celebration to promote handwashing with soap.
Every day, USAID promotes handwashing with soap through its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) or WASHplus program. The project, operated by FHI 360, CARE and Winrock International, aims to increase access to and lower the cost of water and sanitation services, and improve personal hygiene habits. The “plus” represents the project’s efforts to combat pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses caused by indoor air pollution from inefficient or misused cooking stoves
In Zambia, a new school program called SPLASH focuses its efforts on boosting child education as it relates to good hygiene practices. They do this by working with schools to improve both access to better hygiene facilities, such as latrines and hand washing stations, and by teaching students and staff how important good hygiene practices are in making them healthier, like washing hands with soap at key times (after using a latrine or before eating). By reducing the number of days students and teachers miss school due to diarrheal diseases caused by poor sanitation, unsafe water, or the inability to wash their hands with water and soap, they have more opportunities to learn.
In Madagascar, USAID is working with communities in urban areas to provide public-private solutions that provide more options for households who can’t afford or aren’t able to build their own latrines and hand washing stations. A growing number of communities run WASH blocks that provide latrines with sinks and soap for handwashing, as well as showers and in some cases laundry areas for anyone to use for a small fee. Some of these blocks get as many as 200 users per day. Claudine, who is the chair of the WASH committee in her neighborhood, welcomed the construction of a WASH block for her community. “Our neighborhood is poor and our living environment is dirty, and we do not have enough water,” she said. “So the WASH block was something that the community really needed.”
Because of their weakened immune systems, people living with HIV and AIDS have an especially high need for clean water to wash their hands and safely drink, as well as access to a clean and safe latrine. In Kenya, USAID is training partners on the ground to train their community health workers on ways that people living with HIV and their families can improve water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, including hand washing with soap to reduce their chances of getting diarrhea. Community health workers use pictoral cards (available in both English and Kswahili) to show HIV positive clients and their caregivers or family members how to wash hands correctly, build a water saving device called a tippy tap to wash hands, and other healthy hygiene practices.
There are many examples of how Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has progressed with its mission of encouraging proper handwashing. But the more people we can get to the spread the message, the fewer people will get sick or die from diarrheal disease.