Written by Elizabeth Pratt, Volunteer
Global Handwashing Day, held October 15th each year, increases awareness of and advocates for healthy and safe hand sanitation and hygiene. COVID-19 has impacted us all, and the importance of handwashing, specifically with soap and water, is more relevant than ever. This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is “Hand Hygiene for All” and the PWW team is doing their part to help achieve this goal. By providing communities with the correct information about how to correctly wash their hands, community members will, ulimiately, experience less sickness and less vulnerability to sicknesses, including COVID-19 as well as many other viruses.
In response to the virus, Global Handwashing Day is promoting the increased availability of hygiene stations, with access to soap and water, as well as holding behavioral change interventions with vulnerable populations, informing communities about the virus and how simply washing hands can significantly decrease its spread. People in underserved communities do not have the privilege of having easy access to a sink and soap, and most do not have access to safe water. Finding ways to provide communities with accessible handwashing stations as well as providing training is part of what PWW is doing to solve the problem.
Retrieving data about accessible handwashing station locations can be difficult. Only 16 countries have readily available information about accessible handwashing stations at bathrooms in healthcare facilities and only 55 countries have information about handwashing stations at points-of-care. With so little known, it is difficult to gage what places need more attention and what places do not. Nevertheless, it is demonstrated, in countries including Honduras and Haiti, that rural communities severely lack access to these stations. This is why PWW is stepping in to help further the mission led by WHO and UNICEF to improve “Hand Hygiene for All.”
In Honduras, for Global Handwashing Day 2020, PWW partnered with UNICEF to conduct both a virtual event as well as an in-person celebration.
The first Virtual Global Handwashing Day Celebration was conducted with teachers from Tegucigalpa and other communities. A great success, the celebration included 51 teachers participating live through Zoom, and over 2900 viewing the event on Facebook. During the celebration, students demonstrated how to make tipi-taps and how to make gel soap through a poem and song about handwashing. The event closed with a raffle containing school supplies for students who presented.
The in-person celebration, held in the Municipality of Jesus de Otoro, included local educational authorities and country educational authorities, as well as many community members, including 30 students and 20 teachers. The lively celebration included murals about handwashing, presented by students and teachers, along with cultural skits and acts performed by community members. After the presentation, students presented murals and were awarded backpacks and water bottles. Two WASH Committee members were sworn in during the celebration. Their job is to highlight different WASH dates and to show WASH activities to the community and schools.
In Pistere, Haiti, PWW joined with partner, Soaring Unlimited, to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. Forty-nine community members participated in the day’s events. Activities included trainings through modules and demonstrations focused on how to effectively wash hands, when to wash them, washing hands and the impact with COVID-19, as well as showing community members a diagram outlining disease transmission routes.
The 49 participants made a commitment to share the information they received with family members, which, in turn, can reach 147 people in this community. Participants each received a t-shirt and three bars of soap, supporting their continued use of safe handwashing practices.
This successful event, reinforced at Soaring Unlimited’s local medical clinic, has the opportunity to reach more members of the Pistere community, resulting in cleaner hands and a reduction in the spread of viruses!
Please join us in making handwashing a priority. This simple task saves lives!