An action as simple as handwashing, when done correctly, has the potential to prevent disease at par with some of our best interventions. Global Handwashing Day (GHD) aims to do just that; a campaign to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands with soap at critical times moments throughout the day. Global Handwashing Day takes place on October 15th of each year. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness that handwashing, when done properly with soap, is an easy method of disease prevention. Research has shown that handwashing has reduced the infant mortality rate by 50%. This drop involves a reduction in diseases, such as diarrhea and acute respiratory disease, i.e. pneumonia, that traditionally kill many children globally.
The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) established Global Handwashing Day in 2008 as a way to promote a global and local vision of handwashing with soap in order to prevent disease and save lives in an effective and affordable manner. They suggest hygiene and health are pillars of development on which communities and countries can support themselves. Recently, PPPHW has moved to include Procter and Gamble (P&G) in its partnership, an exciting development with great potential.
Procter and Gamble is the main donor for Wezesha Vijana, a program by Asante Africa Foundation (AAF). Asante Africa Foundation developed the Wezesha Vijana Program with the mission of retaining girls in school by giving them training about health and hygiene, giving them the background and tools to cope with their changing bodies and hygiene requirements. The program also helps girls understand their rights and negotiate relationships, making them safer and more autonomous. They build financial literacy, which in turn helps them make sound judgements for the present and future decisions of their lives. The goal is for young girls to gain footing and grow up to become financially, economically, socially, and politically productive and independent.
The distribution of soap is one of the catalysts to the Wezesha program and enhances the practicability of the training and steer up attainment of the project goal which is to foster the development of health, social and economic assets to help girls build a healthier, more secure future for themselves and their families.
The donated soaps were equally distributed in the three Tanzania school districts: Hai, Siha, and Monduli, which represent a total of 22 schools. Distribution of soap to the students was essential since some of the schools had hand washing stations such as Orkolili but there was no soap and therefore the stations did little to protect people who washed their hands because the germs did not die without soap.
One head administrator of a school commented that although teachers do wash their hands with soap they were worried about the germs they could get during marking students’ exercise books since they have no such infrastructure as soap, so he said soap donation will also bring assurance of their health.
Developing and copying the good practice of washing hands with soap is not only important before and after eating or after coming from the toilet but also before food preparation or after doing any domestic work or mechanical work where by the body or hands will be exposed to germs. It is crucial to train students to recognize the times when they should be washing their hands and in what way.
Finally, the soap distribution has increased the district and the school management’s trust for the organization. Ever since the distributions, the managements have been more cooperative, seeing the value of the project, and working alongside to achieve its common goal. They even offered their own vehicles to aid in distribution. The support is invaluable because the project is only as good as its buy-in. Students and teachers will be more secure from disease such as diarrhea and cholera, but only if they, and the people around them, practice handwashing routinely.
On October 15th, people from across the world will celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It’s something small each and every one of us can do to prevent disease, make ourselves stronger, and take a step towards a healthier future.
Asante Africa Foundation and Procter & Gamble have partnered to take the same idea to communities where the impact will be felt by hundreds and thousands of people. Why? When contamination and lack of sanitation causes disease outbreaks and death, providing clean facilities, access to soap and water, and the knowledge of transmission goes a long way in saving lives. This can stabilize families and communities socially, emotionally, and financially.