- 98% know to wash hands before meals, 87% know to do it after toilet: Study
- 23% people know to wash hands after touching commonly used objects: Study
- The study was conducted across 6 states between 28 May and 12 June 2020
New Delhi: Hand washing with soap is a cost-effective public health intervention, notes the study ‘Hand Hygiene for COVID-19 and Beyond in India’ by non-governmental organisation, WaterAid. Hand hygiene practices in India, however, have remained low, it says. The COVID-19 pandemic in India has underscored the disease prevention benefits of hand washing with soap and other protective measures in slowing the spread of Coronavirus.
The WaterAid India study was conducted as a rapid household survey, with an aim to understand whether communication on hand hygiene during this phase of the pandemic and lockdown were received, understood, and translated into action. WaterAid India conducted the study between May 28 and June 12, 2020 in six States – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Karnataka, with 790 respondents.
The States and gram panchayats were selected based on WaterAid India’s field presence, safety and ease of access post lockdown, the report clarifies.
Moreover, the study’s sampling was purposive at the community level, specifically seeking to interview adults from households with children under six years, elderly above 60 years, and households who were identified as vulnerable or marginalised according to socio-economic criteria (tribal households, Dalit families, migrant workers).
Here are the key findings of the report:
- As per the study, 67 per cent of the respondents received information about the role of hand washing in preventing COVID-19, among other preventative measures. The main sources of information on coronavirus and hand washing were the informal community networks, television, frontline workers and mobile phones, the study reports. Strikingly, 92 percent and 87 per cent of the people surveyed highlighted soap as the most effective handwashing agent in general and during the pandemic, respectively.
- The study records that 98 per cent of those surveyed were aware that hands must be cleaned before meals, while 87 per cent knew that they should wash hands after using the toilet. However, only 44 per cent knew that they should wash hands also before feeding their children. Furthermore, when it comes to COVID-19 specific information, only 34 per cent people knew that they should wash hands after sneezing, 23 per cent knew they should do so after contact with commonly used surfaces and objects and 61 per cent knew to wash hands after returning home from outside.
- Approximately three-fourths of the study sample reported making some change to their handwashing practices at home, with a 77 percent of those noting the need to protect self from Coronavirus as the driving factor.
- To wash hands, 41 per cent households are using piped water or stored water with tap for handwashing, and 57 per cent directly using water from a handpump or stored water without a tap. The lack of a tap connection may compromise proper handwashing practices as it makes cleaning both hands together (as per the steps) challenging without additional assistance, the study highlights. Compounding limited access to water for handwashing, was the availability of a handwashing space in the household. While several households reported had more than one handwashing space, in 18 per cent of households, the only handwashing space was outside the home.
- 15 per cent of households reported facing challenges in washing hands inside the home, and 34 per cent experienced difficulties outside the home. Despite reportedly high rates of handwashing, the study explains that the challenges noted are in line with access to handwashing space and water with the household premises – the lack of handwashing space in the home, poor availability of soap and lack of piped water supply. Outside the home, inadequate water, lack of soap and handwashing space were major barriers to practice.
Along with the above mentioned findings, the study, Hand Hygiene for COVID-19 and Beyond in India, recommends that there should not only be messages around hand washing, but for sustained hand washing behaviours.
Explain diseases transmission routes, with clear messages on how hand washing with soap and other protective measures disrupts the transmission of diseases. Continue to emphasise non-COVID-related critical times, especially washing hands with soap before cooking, engaging in child care tasks, the study recommends.
The study also suggests exploring how hygiene promotion interventions i.e., creating awareness on hygiene practices and ensuring essential hygiene facilities, can transition into hygiene behaviour change interventions. The approach can bring about sustained or long lasting change in behaviours, it says.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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