October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. This week, we celebrate Global Handwashing Day to convey the message that washing hands with soap and water is a simple, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases. Read on for details on Global Volunteers’ hand-washing initiatives around the world and how you, too, can support these important efforts.
Hand Washing Worldwide
Millions of people across the globe have no ready place to wash their hands. UNICEF reports that 40% of people worldwide do not have basic hand-washing facilities. Children, parents, healthcare workers, and other members of the community lack this access at home, in healthcare facilities, schools, and elsewhere.
Global Handwashing Day was established in 2008 to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing. This effort, combined with many other efforts to bring attention to the need for improved water supply, sanitation, and hygiene, have resulted in the inclusion of hand washing as an indicator within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hand washing with soap and water is 200 times more cost effective than a single vaccination. Global Volunteers works in special consultative status with the United Nations on the SDGs, and in many of our programs around the world we work with and enable local people to wash their hands with soap and water.
In our Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Demonstration Program in Tanzania, volunteers work alongside local people to help build simple hand-washing stations out of PVC pipe so all families have a way to wash their hands with soap and purified water at home. Every family enrolled in the program receives a household hand-washing station and schools and faith-based organizations are supplied several stations each. Since July 2017, 638 hand-washing stations have been constructed and installed in RCP villages.
Hand Washing in the Face of COVID-19 and Other Diseases
Global Handwashing Day website emphasizes the importance of hand washing with soap in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic: “The COVID-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.”
Hand washing is a simple and effective way to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, but for too many people this is not possible due to the lack of running water. The hand-washing stations provided to RCP families are a simple and safe way for children and families to wash their hands where this is no running water. In the face of the COVID-19 threat, we are scaling our efforts to improve handwashing and hygiene in every village we serve in Tanzania.
AMREF Health Africa (formerly Flying Doctors) reports that 75% of illnesses in homes could be prevented by good hygiene practices: “Hand washing with soap is one of the most effective and cost-effective means of preventing the infections that kill millions of children in Africa each year.” Washing hands after using the toilet and before handling food is an easy and affordable intervention that can reduce diarrhea among children by almost 50% and cut respiratory infections by as much as 25%.
In the face of the COVID-19 threat, we are scaling our efforts to improve handwashing and hygiene in every village we serve in Tanzania.
Community-Based Initiatives in Tanzania
Families enrolled in the Reaching Children’s Potential Program in rural Tanzania are provided a hand-washing station for their home and are instructed on how to properly use the station and the importance of this practice. Through workshops and weekly home visits, families learn the benefits of regularly washing their hands with soap. Mothers learn that nearly 1/3 of all child deaths globally are caused by diarrhea and pneumonia. They are also taught how germs are spread and how hand washing kills the germs and prevents the spread of disease.
Hand washing with soap and water is modeled as a “do-it-yourself” vaccine that saves lives.
Sesiana Duma, a mother of three, reports: “We have seen a huge difference since we started using the hand-washing stations. Before we had a hand-washing station, the trips to dispensaries were endless. We were given a lot of medicines to cure the diseases that our children were suffering from and it was mainly stomach fever, running nose, and coughing. But when we were given a workshop on hand washing and given the hand-washing station, we have not experienced any type of sickness since then and thus we discovered that hand washing with clean water and soap is very important to everyone’s health.”
Families are provided with soap and bleach to purify the water, and our Tanzanian staff help with maintaining the stations. Perhaps most importantly, volunteers and staff talk about how fun hand washing can be and how, if instructed properly, their children are likely to love doing it, too.
“Since we started using the hand-washing station, my family has never suffered from diarrhea. I’m also grateful that my child has never gotten sick from diarrhea since the day she was born. The hand-washing station has been very helpful to keep us healthy.”– Tumpokee Kikoti, RCP mom
Apendaye Myumbo, a mother of four enrolled in the RCP Program, shares about using her hand-washing station: “There is a big difference since we started washing our hands because it’s an easy technology. We used to wash our hands in a small basin which was also not appropriate because everyone used the same water in the basin. So the hand-washing station has helped to ease the process and it is a safer way of keeping our hands clean. Also, since we started washing our hands effectively, we have not been suffering from any diseases compared to how it was before. The hand-washing stations have been very helpful and interesting in using them.”
Help Us Reach Our Goal of 100 New Hand-washing Stations
Our goal for 2020 Global Handwashing Day is to provide 100 more hand-washing stations in Tanzania. For just $35, you can give a family a new hand-washing station and all the needed materials and maintenance for one year.
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