October 15 marks the annual celebration of Global Handwashing Day. Over 200 million people will be promoting one simple behavior that can save lives all over the world—handwashing with soap. Every year, 1.7 million children are killed by diarrhea and pneumonia—two diseases that can be significantly prevented through good hygiene practices. Even with the knowledge that handwashing with soap can improve health and save lives, it isn’t practiced nearly enough, and resources geared toward its promotion, necessary supplies, or facilities are inadequate.
The WASHplus project, funded by USAID, is working diligently to address the lack of infrastructure that prevents access to handwashing with soap, and promoting simple messaging around washing hands with soap at critical times. This can reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children under 5 by 47 percent and respiratory infections by approximately 25 percent.
Hygiene is also critical to educational achievement, ensuring that students don’t miss school due to illness; economics, through increased worker attendance and productivity; and equity, which girls gain when they are able to safely manage menstruation at school. Given the broad impact of hygiene, it is essential that handwashing facilities and behavior change programs be prioritized.
Join us in raising a hand for hygiene on Global Handwashing Day and every day! Enjoy the joyful images of handwashing activities from our project activities, where we work to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
WASHplus’s peri-urban hygiene improvement project in Benin, being implemented by partner ABMS/PSI, encourages households to build their own tippy taps to facilitate handwashing. Outreach workers noted that tippy taps were disappearing shortly after installation. An inquiry revealed that children were appropriating the tippy taps to use as toys, for lack of better options. In a recent quarterly progress review meeting in two target neighborhoods, outreach workers consulted community leaders and household representatives to come up with solutions. As a result, the group decided to adopt more permanent handwashing stations using 25-liter jerry cans, and install them in the public toilets open to everyone, but which had lacked handwashing facilities.
In another development, in the spirit of “WASH Partout” (WASH Everywhere), the Benin program has branched out from promoting handwashing and water treatment at household level to promotion at the local schools. During a hands-on training, teachers learned how to make different models of tippy taps and incorporate handwashing into their hygiene lessons at school. The schools and staff from implementing partner ABMS/PSI seized the opportunity to formulate criteria and a point system to certify schools as WASH-Friendly.