Today marks Global Handwashing Day. Begun in 2008 by The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) with support from the United Nations, today over 200 million people in 100 different countries will commemorate the day with educational celebrations. Their goals are to:
- Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap
- Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country
- Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap
Every year, 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their 5th birthday because of the devastating affects of diarrhea and pneumonia. Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. This simple behavior can save lives, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost one-half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.
Feed the Children is happy to join in these celebrations throughout the world so that even more kids can reach their 5th birthday and beyond!
These are some of our plans for celebration in Africa.
In Kajiado County, Feed the Children will partner with teachers and school administrators at Kajiado Township Primary School in Kajiado County to talk to the children about the use of soap.
Children get handwashing lessons in the Dagoretti Center, Kenya
In Turkana County, Feed the Children will join partner at Lorugum sub-county headquarters to mark the day with handwashing demonstrations while in Nairobi County, personnel from government ministries and our staff will visit six schools under the school meals program to provide similar lessons on handwashing.
Our staff that serves at the Dagoretti Children Centre (DCC) in Nairobi will hear a presentation from our on-site nurses. The nurses will share tips with the childcare workers, not only for handwashing, but also how to prevent the Ebola virus.
If you would like to invest in educating more people about preventing Ebola, learn more here.
In the Rumphi district in the northern region of Malawi, the district Council and other partners will join Feed the Children to commemorate the day through a Global Sanitation FUND project. Feed the Children is also contributing financial resources toward the events.
The Global Sanitation FUND project in Malawi is one of many that teaches children and families about the benefits of handwashing all year, not just on one day. In every one of the 847 communities we support in this country, we have installed handwashing stations and toilets. We are teaching the value of cleanliness and have installed handwashing facilities outside each of the toilets so that children learn from a young age the value of washing their hands.
Another way we make sure everyone learns how to wash their hands properly is through our Care Groups, a model originally developed in Mozambique by another organization and pioneered by our Chief Program Officer and others. Through Care Groups, the average improvement in handwashing behavior increases twice as fast as it does with any other approach.
The Care Groups model helps communities take on some of the responsibility for lifting themselves out of poverty, empowering people to contribute their own time and resources to the work. In this model, we work with communities to form a “Neighbor Circle” of 12 households, each of which selects a member to be their “Care Group Volunteer.” All of the Care Group Volunteers meet regularly for training from Feed the Children, and then in turn pass along the training to other households in their Neighbor Circle. In a Care Group program that one of our staff members supported, malnutrition dropped by 38% in less than two years and child deaths dropped 29%!
Through these Care Groups we have educated communities on the importance of hand washing with soap at all critical times, including before and after eating or serving food, after changing a baby’s diaper, and after handling food.
We have seen an improvement in handwashing behavior in most of the communities we are working with. Handwashing with soap is still a challenge in some communities, but with repetitive teaching, we are making great progress and fewer kids are getting sick.
Happy Global Handwashing Day, everyone!