Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted handwashing as the simplest yet most important measure to contain the virus spread. Every year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day is observed to increase awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases. UNICEF West Bengal celebrated the day by conducting various online programmes and training with school teachers and ICDS stakeholders and public outreach activities like soap bank drives and 100 days hand wash with soap campaigns.
About 150 schools from across the state participated online with innovative activities and videos by students along with their teachers on preventive measures they will undertake after school re-opens. The online sessions provided a good platform for exchange of ideas between different schools. UNICEF also facilitated online training sessions of about 80 IDS Supervisors and 4000 ICDS workers and helpers of Malda district on Covid-19 and WASH. These training were conducted by ICDS Supervisors who were trained as Master trainers by UNICEF. The online interactions have received a very positive response with the YouTube video of training garnering 2,600 views.
Mohammad Mohiuddin, chief, UNICEF Office for West Bengal said that “Global Hand Washing Day offers us a unique opportunity to focus on the critical yet simple practice of handwashing with soap. It is one of the least resource intensive and preventive public health measures that can be adopted as the first line of defense against various diseases.”
“In current context of Covid-19, the importance of frequent hand washing with soap or using alcohol-based sanitizers, has been globally realized as one of the basic COVID-19 prevention measures, which is why this year’s GHD theme is “Hand Hygiene for All!” He added.
UNICEF WASH Kolkata Field Office along with various organizations launched the initiative to respond to Covid-19 by empowering affected and vulnerable urban and rural communities with hand hygiene services and practices. Under this initiative 87 Handwashing stations have been installed benefitting about 38,000 people. Training on hand hygiene as a component of the overall WASH & COVID 19 prevention package has been provided to sanitation workers, rag pickers, Panchayat members, ICDS workers and CSO members. More than 3,89,150 populations have been reached through miking on COVID-19 prevention messages.
“Studies indicate that regular hand washing with soap can reduce diarrheal infection by 30 to 48%, respiratory infections by 20%, apart from being a barrier to several diseases out-break related pathogens. On this Global Hand Washing Day, where the theme in 2020 is ‘Hand Hygiene for All,’ I urge all to pledge to raise awareness about and practice hand washing with soap regularly for our and our children’s good health!” said Mohammad Mohiuddin.
UNICEF has been promoting the cause of hand washing with soap as a key behavior practice through its WASH programme. As part of the initiative, conducting training and various public outreach activities on hand hygiene practices in urban slums of Kolkata and in several districts of the state.
With upcoming Durga puja celebrations during these COVID times, handwashing with water or using sanitizers has assumed extreme importance as one of the critical behaviours apart from consistently wearing masks outdoors and maintaining physical distancing.