Celebrating ‘Our Hands, Our Future’ on Global Handwashing Day in Bangladesh, October 15, 2017

Australian Red Cross (ARC) | Jenni_Lillingston from Australian Red Cross (ARC) Bangladesh, on 20/10/2017 11:32 AEST

The World Health Organization advises that handwashing with soap could prevent many of the 272 million yearly schooldays lost to diarrheal disease and about 50% of the infections acquired in healthcare settings. Communities in Bangladesh joined those around the world celebrating Global Handwashing Day. Across the country there is a basic lack of awareness of the importance of washing hands with soap at critical times – including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet.  

Through the Community Development Initiative Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CDI WASH) project implemented by Bangladesh Red Crescent Society over 1,000 people joined in parades, handwashing demonstrations and discussions on this year’s theme: Our Hands, Our Future. The focus was on reinforcing and increasing knowledge of the benefits and practice of handwashing and how this helps build a positive future. Events were organised in the project communities jointly by Union Parishad (UP) WASH committees and Community Program Committees (CPC). Global Handwashing day was also more broadly promoted by CDI-WASH via mobile phone messages with around 50,000 people receiving messages celebrating ‘Global Handwashing Day’ and information on the five critical times.

UP WASH representative, Mr. Aktaruzzaman Vutto, reminded people that handwashing is everyone’s responsibility both in “using safe water and soap for handwashing, as well as encouraging all family members to be made conscious about this practice. If this happens then the goals of the Global Handwashing Day will be successful and people will have a good chance to ensure their healthy and bright future by avoiding different diseases”. Similarly at a community forum in Rangpur, CPC President Mr. Ariful Kabir Batul noted, “We, our family and our society will be healthy by ensuring handwashing practice at critical times and information should be shared by our committees and schools”. He noted that while in the past hand washing had not been common in the community, through the education and activities support through CDI WASH he is proud of how widely practiced it was now along with other improved hygiene behaviours.

A key priority for the CDI WASH project has been WASH in schools, including supporting school children as change agents to promote hygienic behaviours to their peers, families and community, focusing on turning knowledge into practice that becomes a lifelong habit.  These children also represent future parents and leaders of their communities. “Continued efforts including CHAST (information) sessions and ongoing monitoring of practice mean that the children both at school and home are making sure everyone washes their hands before and after meals and using the toilet,” said Md. Akhtaruzzaman, Head Teacher, Sahadat Hossain VIP Junior school, Rangpur.

As such, school management committees, teachers and students have all been instrumental in the Global Handwashing Day events in providing information and promoting messages. Students led the handwashing demonstrations and were successful in establishing commitment from peers and community members to replicate this practice at their homes. As Ms. Akhi Moni, Grade 8 says, “We do mcuh work in a day and our hands can be dirty with germs. I share handwashing information with my parents and other students so that they are not affected with diarrheal diseases.”

Prepared by Ashik Sarder, Biplob Kanti Mondal and Jenni Lillingston