New Delhi: The world observes October 15 as Global Handwashing Day, an advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing as an effective and affordable way to prevent the spread of infection and promote good health.
History of Global Handwashing Day
The day was founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership, a coalition of international stakeholders working explicitly to promote handwashing with soap. The Day was first marked in 2008, with more than 120 million children around the world washing their hands with soap in more than 70 countries, according to the Global Handwashing Partnership.
Since 2008, Global Handwashing Day has been endorsed by governments, schools, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies, and individuals as the day to spread awareness about handwashing and demonstrate the simplicity and value of clean hands.
The theme for this year focuses on bridging gaps in access and practice to achieve hand hygiene for all, with the theme- Clean hands are within reach. The theme also highlights the progress that has been made around hand hygiene commitment and action in recent years. According to the Global Handwashing Partnership,
The 2023 theme calls for more concerted efforts to ensure hand hygiene targets are met. When everyone comes together to scale up hand hygiene, clean hands are within reach.
Importance of Global Handwashing Day
In 2022, 75 per cent of the global population (six billion) had a basic handwashing facility with soap and water available at home. Another 17 per cent (1.4 billion) had handwashing facilities that lacked water or soap, and eight per cent (640 million) had no handwashing facility at all, according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP) report.
About India, the report stated that nearly 76 per cent of the Indian population had access to a basic handwashing facility with soap and water at home.
Handwashing has always been one of the most effective ways to keep diseases at bay. But in the last three years, since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, hand hygiene has received unprecedented attention and has become a central pillar in COVID prevention strategies. It was one of the key cornerstones of virus prevention.
On the occasion of Global Handwashing Day, Vini Mahajan, Secretary Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, urged the citizens to keep their focus on the need for ensuring practicing handwashing at all times – during and after toilet use, before eating food, or cooking meals. Additionally, the healthcare providers need to be proactive in frequently washing their hands, to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections, Ms Mahajan added. Talking about achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ensuring access to water and sanitation for all, she said,
We know that water, sanitation and hygiene are interlinked. We are aware that the global community, through SDGs, has focused on providing safe water and sanitation to all by 2030. I am very pleased that India has prioritsed this effort and we intend and expect that we will achieve the goal well before time.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said that as the world now lives through the pandemic and beyond, it becomes all the more important to inculcate hand hygiene as an integral part of our daily routine. Dr Khetrapal further said,
Promoting hand hygiene at all levels of health care is critical. Hand hygiene, a simple action, is well accepted to be one of the primary modes of reducing health care-associated infection.
Here is a step-by-step guide by the World Health Organization (WHO):
– Wet hands with water and apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces
– Rub hands palm to palm. Then, rub the right palm over left dorsum with interlaced fingers and vice versa
– Rub the soap palm to palm with fingers interlaced and even at the back of fingers
– Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa
– Rinse hands with water and dry hands thoroughly with a single use towel
– Use towel to turn off faucet and your hands are now safe
Handwashing with soap contributes to better health, nutrition, education, and equity. The focus of this year’s theme is on making this handwashing accessible to everyone so that it can contribute to the achievement of numerous Sustainable Development Goals. It is an opportunity to learn, design, replicate, and share ways to encourage people to wash their hands to prevent diseases.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. 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 will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that 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 the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.