Global Handwashing Day: 'Our hands, our future'

This Global Handwashing Day we are celebrating how handwashing with soap protects our health and that of our communities. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive public health interventions available. This simple behaviour saves lives. According to the Global Handwashing Partnership 1.4 million children every year do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday. Handwashing with soap can cut incidences of diarrhoea by almost half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.

The Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CS WASH) Fund seeks to enhance the health and quality of life of the poor and vulnerable by improving sustainable access to WASH. Historically the sector has focused heavily on water and sanitation infrastructure. However, having a water connection or toilet alone is not sufficient to achieve potential health benefits. In recognition of the importance of improving hygiene behaviours for public health, every Fund project was required to include a hygiene component. Behaviour Change: M&E Note 8

At its conclusion it is projected that the Fund will have supported more than 2 million people access handwashing facilities; half a million more people than originally planned. You can read more about current trends on Fund-wide hygiene behaviour change here and also in the Behaviour Change: M&E Note 8.

CSO initiatives in changing hygiene behaviours change

Many CS WASH Fund projects focus on engaging and working with schools to improve WASH facilities and handwashing behaviours. Children are potential agents of change in their schools, families and communities, and schools can offer a critical opportunity to teach children about handwashing and other important hygiene behaviours. In the Pacific, Live and Learn Environmental Education are using a Bottleneck Analysis tool to assess and address gaps in WASH in schools. In Vietnam, Thrive Networks recently piloted environmental nudges to encourage handwashing habits among school children with clear results of sustained behaviour change.

Meanwhile in Bhutan, SNV undertook research to change behaviours using the universal human emotional drivers of nurture, disgust and social affiliation. The research project, one of five CS WASH Fund Innovation and Impact grants, adapted the SuperAmma hygiene behaviour change intervention to a mainstream government program. 

And finally, in Malawi United Purpose is supporting local communities improve their hygiene and sanitation practices through the three 'H's' - home-made soap, handwashing and hygiene.

Fund Learning Event reflects on changing behaviour

Hygiene and sanitation behaviour change was explored as a core theme of the recent Fund Learning and Reflection Event (FLARE). The progress, challenges and knowledge gaps relating to behaviour change were explored and participants identified three important messages:

  1. Partnerships and working with both government and community partners is critical to roll out and scale-up behaviour change communications.
  2. Having a strong evidence-base and good data to identify the key motivations and triggers for behaviour changes with both health and non-health motivators is important.
  3. Who is delivering behaviour change messages and how they are delivered is just as important as the messages themselves.

You can access FLARE presentations here.

Put your hand up for hygiene  

For more information and insights on the importance of handwashing with soap visit the Global Handwashing Day website. Global Handwashing Day is a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap. Join the campaign to promote handwashing with soap, share your #globalhandwashingday stories with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: CS WASH FMF Palladium/ David Brazier