Global Handwashing Day is just around the corner….ready, set, plan! 

This blog post is authored by Hanna Washburn. Hanna is the Deputy Secretariat Director for the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW). Follow Hanna on Twitter @WASH_Hanna.

Each year, on October 15, over two hundred million people gather together in countries around the world and celebrate Global Handwashing Day. This international day of advocacy and action shines a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country or community where it is celebrated and helps to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing. Why such a big focus on handwashing? This simple action, when practiced regularly can significantly reduce the risk of illness and death from diarrheal disease and pneumonia. With 1.7 million children dying from these causes each year, we certainly think that is a reason to celebrate!

To help individuals and organizations plan Global Handwashing Day celebrations in their community, region, or country, the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has developed a Planner’s Guide. This year, the Planner’s Guide was updated to reflect the changing nature of Global Handwashing Day celebrations and the corresponding needs of planners.

Based on consultations with partners and others who have utilized the guide, we have attempted to create an updated guide that is action-oriented and provides planners with resources and inspiration to help as they implement a successful Global Handwashing Day celebration, and to encourage handwashing promotion throughout the year.

Those who have used the Planner’s Guide in years past will be familiar with the overall structure of the document; indeed, some sections such as the Five Facts about Handwashing are still very much the same. The biggest changes are found in the hands-on portion of the Guide. Here planners will find a step-by-step guide to planning an event, which is supplemented by fact boxes, event ideas, and tips for success. The annexes feature ideas for celebrations depending on the audience, an event planning checklist, facts about handwashing, and more.

Whether you’ve celebrated Global Handwashing Day for years, or this is your first, we hope that the Planner’s Guide will have provide you with the tools and ideas necessary to make your event a success. Let us know how it goes by uploading pictures and stories to our interactive, online map. And don’t forget, always wash your hands with soap!

Falling in Love All Over Again

“Life in rural Zambia is unbearable.” This is the story that is always heard among newly trained teachers who are posted in rural areas. This reaction is due to the perception that rural schools have poor or inadequate water and sanitation facilities. 

Mr. and Mrs. Fwankila, teachers at Chamsebe Primary School who have been married for two years, have a different story. When they were first posted at this school in the Lundazi District in late 2013, they did not know what to expect because they have spent most of their time in urban Lusaka.

When they arrived at the school, Mrs. Fwankila was surprised but relieved to hear that their official house was almost completed. The second thing she asked to see was the latrine, which according to her is very important and critical to her stay at the school. Each time she goes to a new place the first thing she looks out for is a toilet because she values clean facilities coupled with availability of safe and clean water. “I also love my family too much to expose them to unhygienic environments,” she said.

She sighed with relief when she saw a row of ventilated improved pit latrines. She later learned that the latrines were constructed by SPLASH, a USAID-supported project.

“I want to applaud USAID/SPLASH for the great work that they are doing. They have made my stay in Lundazi easy and very comfortable because of their facilities. I don’t complain about drinking contaminated water because of the water pump, which is available. Because of this I am always revitalized and energized to carry out my duties in the school because I have clean water, a clean latrine, and I know that even the pupils that I teach are well taken care of. This has helped me to spend more time in school thus increasing contact time between me and the pupils,” she says. The new facilities have contributed to helping young girls who have reached puberty to stay in school throughout the term, a phenomena that is unheard of in other schools.

Mrs. Fwankila explains, “The availability of water and sanitation facilities has made me not to see any big difference between rural and urban areas. My husband and I don’t even miss living in the city. We are much happier and spend a lot of time together. We will forever remain grateful to USAID /SPLASH facilities.”

Mr. Fwankila was quick to add, “My wife and I have fallen in love all over again because we have much more time to spend together. We don’t have to go long distances looking for water. SPLASH has brought clean and safe water right at our doorstep. We have a clean house, a backyard garden, and we love our new community.”

USAID/SPLASH continues to impact schools and communities in eastern Zambia by building latrines and installing boreholes, water tanks, drinking water, and hand washing stations, making sure that hygiene is a regular practice. The project has provided WASH facilities in 337 schools and its program has reached over 260,000 children.

Kenya – Ministry alarmed by ‘long calls’ along highways, to build toilets along Nairobi-Nakuru highway

Sanitation Updates

Kenya – Ministry alarmed by ‘long calls’ along highways, to build toilets along Nairobi-Nakuru highway | Source: by Antony Gitonga, Standard Digital, Aug 8, 2014 |

NAKURU COUNTY: The ministry of health has expressed its concern over the high number of people who defecate in the open mainly along the main highways in the country. Following the revelation, Nakuru County has announced plans in major centres along the Nairobi-Nakuru and Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road to construct public toilets. According to the department of health, the open defecation was one of the leading causes in the increase in the number of typhoid and diarrhoea cases in the county.

Nakuru County director of health Dr Benedict Osore with county public health officer Samuel King’ori and USAID's WASHplus project manager Evelyn Makena examine some chairs used for defecation for the disabled at Longonot village in Naivasha. He said that around 300 of the 1,949 villages in the county had been declared open defecation free.  [PHOTO: ANTONY GITONGA/STANDARD] Nakuru County director of health Dr Benedict Osore with county public health officer Samuel King’ori and USAID’s WASHplus project manager Evelyn Makena examine some chairs used for defecation for the disabled at Longonot village in Naivasha. He said that around 300 of the…

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A World with WASH: Envisioning a Cleaner, Healthier World Post-2015

Woodburn_Hanna_2014By Hanna M. Woodburn.

Hanna Woodburn is the Secretariat Deputy Director for the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW).

In early July my colleague Orlando Hernandez, from the USAID-funded WASHplus project, and I traveled to London to participate in a two-day meeting of WHO/UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme’s Communications and Advocacy working group. In addition to learning about the upcoming process to establish a new set of global development goals and exploring future advocacy opportunities, we lead a strategy session on how the sector can better advocate for hygiene in the Post-2015 agenda.

As the international community works to agree upon a set of new global development goals, targets, and indicators, it is increasingly important that the value of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) be recognized at the global level.  Water, sanitation, and hygiene are the basic components of a healthy community. Without them, the ability of children to grow, develop, and thrive is inhibited.

From the current Ebola crisis in West Africa to the news that a diarrhea outbreak in Swaziland recently killed nearly 40 children, it is evident that these basics are desperately needed. And for this to happen, they must be prioritized by governments. The best way to ensure this is through a dedicated goal on water, sanitation, and hygiene in the Post-2015 agenda.

Water and sanitation were both addressed in the Millennium Development Goals, but progress on sanitation continues to lag. Clearly, to build further momentum, these issues should be addressed again in the post-2015 agenda. With the establishment of new goals, there is an opportunity to include (handwashing with soap) and drive development forward. This opportunity must not be overlooked, and the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing and the USAID/WASHplus project remain committed to ensuring that the “H” in WASH does not get forgotten.

We know that the full benefit of investments in water and sanitation are not achieved if hygiene is not also addressed. A cleaner, healthier world is possible, but governments must act and now is the time to do so.


In 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Declaration and member states agreed to work towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Given the imminent expiration of these goals, the United Nations and the international community is working to outline and agree upon a set of new global development goals, targets, and indicators. These goals and targets, often referred to as the post-2015 agenda or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire.  The UN process to develop the post-2015 agenda includes global consultations on a variety of themes including water, health, education and inequities—of particular importance for water, sanitation and hygiene.

The post-2015 goals and targets that will be enacted will function as a “report card” against which governments’ progress can be tracked. Furthermore, these post-2015 goals will be a driver behind the work of governments, donors, and non-governmental organizations over the next 15 years. This is an important opportunity to ensure that WASH is a global priority. Water, sanitation and hygiene are essential for health, welfare and livelihoods. Increased access and better services lead to higher levels of school achievement and improved economic productivity. Yet too many people do not have these basic human rights. After 2015, we must do better.

The JMP has put forth recommended WASH targets for inclusion in the post-2015 agenda. The recommendations have been developed through an extensive technical consultation; over 100 experts from over 60 organizations worldwide have debated them during the last three years. They are ambitious, yet achievable.

Vision: Universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene.

By 2030:

  • to eliminate open defecation;
  • to achieve universal access to basic drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene for households, schools, and healthcare facilities;
  • to halve the proportion of the population without access at home to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services; and
  • to progressively eliminate inequities in access.

Of the range of hygiene behaviors considered important for health, two key behaviors were prioritized for the post-2015 agenda – handwashing with soap and menstrual hygiene management. These behaviors will be measured by the presences of handwashing facilities with soap and water and facilities for hygienic, safe, and private menstrual hygiene management for girls and women.

Unfortunately, a comprehensive WASH target in the SDGs is not yet guaranteed. While some high-level reports and proposals have incorporated WASH, they often focus on water and sanitation, but fail to include hygiene.  The reasons for this are myriad. Some argue, for example, that hygiene is a personal behavior, and governments cannot be held accountable. While good hygiene is a behavior, the facilities to make the behavior possible (i.e. gender segregated toilets, handwashing facilities with soap and water), can be measured and governments should be held responsible for their provision. It is clear that there are many misunderstandings about the role of hygiene in the global development agenda. This toolkit seeks to address these falsities and ensure that all member of the WASH sector are armed with the necessary facts and talking points to successfully advocate for the inclusion of hygiene in the SDGs. We must continue to advocate for all three components of WASH: water, sanitation, and hygiene, equally Hygiene is not a WASH extra, but an essential.

Laying the framework for water and sanitation sustainability


WASHplus\FHI360 and CARE/Zambia are implementing a 4-year USAID-funded initiative targeting primary schools in the Eastern Province called SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene).  Working alongside local government ministries, this project aims to bring clean drinking water, child and gender-friendly latrines, hand washing stations and hygiene education to rural schools across four districts of the Eastern Province of Zambia.

As a WASH consultant over the summer, my primary task was to work with the SPLASH staff to develop tools for the operation and maintenance of implemented infrastructure. Sustaining water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) resources at these schools after the life of this project, is a key component of this initiative. My time in Zambia has been split between working out of the SPLASH offices in Lusaka and Chipata, with school visits sprinkled throughout the span of two months. Working with the FHI360/CARE staff and officials from the Ministry of Education has been a unique and enjoyable learning experience.

Effective monitoring is one of the biggest challenges in the water and sanitation sector, with over 40% of infrastructure failing within five years of implementation. Crucial to infrastructure sustainability is developing a mechanism for school and district level officials to routinely monitor and report on the functionality of water points and latrines constructed during the project. Using a tool called TextIt, I developed a mobile-based survey through which schools can directly relate information about the functionality of WASH infrastructure. Using any cell phone that sends text messages, rural communities can access this service, allowing for timely, accurate and transparent monitoring of services. Once this data is reported, it is automatically analyzed using a tool called Water Point Mapperwhich produces a map displaying the various infrastructure across the area of operation, and up-to-date information about each WASH facility.

Phone WaterPoint Mapper Screenshot

The use of mobile-based reporting bypasses paper-based surveys conducted periodically by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government and Housing. Conducting paper-based surveys is an expensive and time-intensive process, requiring staff to travel to rural communities, over roads that are often impassible during the rainy season. On the other hand, mobile-based surveys can be initiated at the instance of infrastructure failure and significantly reduces human error. However, the use of mobile phones to access these services requires communities to bear the cost of sending text messages. These costs are considerably lower than the cost of transportation and salaries of surveyors and data entry staff. Moreover, cell phone credit can be transferred from the accounts of government ministries directly to these communities, so as not to pass the cost onto the users. There is also potential for private sector partnerships with cell service provides within Zambia.

Once the map of WASH infrasructure is generated, it will be accessible to staff at government ministries, project implementing organizations, funding agencies and members of community WASH committees. Engagement of all these stakeholders is vital for the sustainability of infrastructure and services. Working in unison, they will be able to report and address any issues that may arise with the implemented water system, latrines, handwashing stations, menstrual hygiene facilities and drinking water points. These tools will also aid organizations to efficiently allocate resources, recognize trends in performance and service levels and have a visual, easy-to-understand representation of project progress. The use of WASH mapping all allow monitoring organizations to easily detect points of failure in service delivery and generate user-friendly reports for funders and partners. Through this structure of reciprocal monitoring where communities can directly communicate with the project implementer, communities are encouraged to take ownership of their water and sanitation resources, and play an active stake in operation and maintenance.

During my last week at SPLASH, I presented these WASH monitoring tools to representatives from USAID, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government and Housing, FHI360, CARE and other NGOs working in this sector in Zambia. The various entities called for adoption of these monitoring tools and increased cooperation for WASH sustainability. In the coming months, SPLASH will implement these tools in conjunction with the Ministry of Education in the schools in the Eastern Province where SPLASH is currently working.


Working with the SPLASH team in Zambia has been an incredibly fulfilling experience and has solidified my passion for working in the WASH sector. I have learned a lot about the challenges that organizations face in sustaining implemented infrastructure, and strategies used to overcome these challenges. Working with SPLASH has allowed me the opportunity to innovate and create novel technologies to ensure WASH sustainability. I am excited to see how these tools are implemented in the field over the coming months and whether they are effective over the coming years.

While not in office or the field, I have had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Zambia at its many wildlife reserves. From visiting elephant orphanages, helicopter rides over the Victoria Falls, and bungee jumping, my time here in Zambia has been exhilarating to say the least.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of USAID or the U.S. Government.