Global Hand washing Day (GHD) 2014 celebrated in Oromia, Ethiopia

By Kulule Mekonnen

Kimbibit woreda community welcomes participants of Global Handwashing Day participants colourfully with their decorated horses
Kimbibit woreda community welcomes participants of Global Handwashing Day participants colourfully with their decorated horses ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/ Sewunet

Hundreds of people marked Global Hand Washing Day with a colourful celebration at Garachatu School in Kimbibit woreda, Oromia region.

The region has been celebrating Global Hand Washing day since 2008, which was International Year of Sanitation.

Community members travelled to the event on foot and on horseback, wearing colourful traditional clothes to welcome government officials and invited guests to the celebrations.

The event is marked in many countries every year to underline the importance of handwashing in the prevention of common but potentially lethal diseases such as diarrohea, pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola and others.

The event at Garatchu School included the reading of poems by students, songs and performances, focusing on the importance of handwashing.

Dr Zelalem Habtamu, Deputy Head of the Oromia Regional Health Bureau, said: “We believe that we could prevent over 60 % of communicable diseases by implementing proper environmental health interventions. This is why we focus on advocating proper hand washing practices at critical times.’’

Oromia has made solid progress in improving hygiene, deploying 13,000 health extension workers and 4.5 million health development armies. These are small groups of women that meet regularly to discuss and solve issues relating to public health, socio-economic, environmental and economic concerns.

Students of Garachatu School perform a play on the importance of handwashing
Students of Garachatu School perform a play on the importance of handwashing at the Global Handwashing Day celebration ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

Dr. Zelalem added: “We are celebrating this year’s GHD in Garachatu School, with the school community and their families, with the intention of reaching every family, as we believe that students could carry on the positive hand washing behaviours learnt at schools with their families and their neighbourhood.”

Hand washing with soap removes germs from hands, preventing the transmission of infections when people touch their eyes, nose or mouth. It can also prevent germs getting into food and drink, as often happens when they are prepared by people with unclean hands. These germs can then multiply, risking the spread of infection to more people.

Germs from unwashed hands can also be transferred to objects like handrails, table tops or toys and spread easily.

Removing germs through proper hand washing helps prevent diarrhoea and respiratory infections and may also help prevent skin and eye infections.

Research shows that community hand washing education has a number of hygiene benefits. It reduces cases of diarrhoea by 31 percent, diarrheic illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58 percent and respiratory illnesses, such as colds, in the general population by 21 percent.

Figures released recently by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation show that in 2013 more than 340,000 children under five – almost 1,000 a day – died from diarrheic diseases due to lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. As the Ebola response takes its toll on the health services in the affected countries, the practice of hand washing is even more important to prevent these common diseases.

Participants washes their hands at the Global Hand washing Day celebration in Garachatu School, Kimbibit woreda of Oromia region, Ethiopia.
Participants wash their hands at the Global Hand washing Day celebration in Garachatu School, Kimbibit woreda of Oromia region, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

UNICEF works with regional government and non-governmental organisations to improve access to safe drinking water, sanitation and healthy environments and better hygiene practices.

It also focuses on capacity building to eliminate open defecation and improve hand-washing facilities in schools and health centres, focusing on the needs of girls.

W/ro Zewuditu Areda, Head of the North Shewa Zonal Health Department, said: “Proper hand washing prevents disease and saves lives, hence hands should be properly washed.”

The event ended with a demonstration of 10 steps of proper hand washing by Belay Techane, a Kimbibit Woreda Health Worker. The steps include:

  • First hand should be rinsed and wet
  • Apply soap and thoroughly scrub hands and forearms up to elbow. Give special attention to scrubbing your nails and the space between your fingers
  • Rinse with generous amount of clean water flowing
  • Air-dry with your hands up and elbows facing the ground, so that water drips away from your hands and fingers
  • After the demonstration, all participants of the day practiced proper hand washing using soap as demonstrated by the health worker.

Ethiopia celebrates Global Handwashing Day

By Demissew Bizuwork

Global Handwashing Day celebrated at Menilik II Preparatory School, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Global Handwashing Day 2013 was celebrated in Ethiopia on 1st November 2013 under the theme “More than just a day-The power is in your hands”

Global Handwashing Day 2013 was celebrated in Ethiopia on 1st November 2013 under the theme “More than just a day-The power is in your hands”. The event was colourfully marked in Menelik II Primary School where officials from the Federal Ministry of Health, UNICEF, partner organizations, religious leader`s, and the school community all came together putting the emphasis on the importance of Handwashing with soap at critical times.

Washing Hands with soap can reduce the risk Diarrhoea by up to 45%
Washing Hands with soap can reduce the risk Diarrhoea by up to 45%

Though Handwashing is a simple practice, global facts indicate that an estimated 1,400 children under five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. In Ethiopia, diarrhoea accounts for 14 per cent of child deaths or an average of 106 children every day. Diarrhoea is also the second largest cause of under-five mortality both globally and in Ethiopia

Led by the renowned artist Sileshi Demissie, who is also hygiene and environmental activist, the school kids performed very enticing songs and drama on Handwashing. Officials and students alike were also involved in the easy to do task of Handwashing demonstration so that the behavior would be practiced regularly by the school children.

Ethiopia aims to ensure access to basic sanitation for all citizens by 2015, with 80 per cent of communities declared open defecation free, and that 77 per cent of the population practice Handwashing at critical times. Deputy Representative of UNICEF Ethiopia Ms Patrizia Di Giovanni on her message stressed that UNICEF is supporting the Federal Ministry of Health to develop National Handwashing Communication Guidelines. The guidelines will help mobilize mass interest among communities, especially children and youth, in making Handwashing with soap or ash a national social norm.

See pictures from the event here http://www.flickr.com/photos/unicefethiopia/sets/72157637186520184

News coverage by Ethiopian Television

Speech by Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia, on the day http://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/events_13880.html

Simple hand-washing with soap can cut hundreds of thousands of deaths: UN

In the Central Africa Republic in 2008, a child holds out a bar of soap. UNICEF distributed soap as part of a national immunisation campaign.

From Ethiopia and Yemen to Bolivia and Viet Nam millions of children are taking part in the sixth annual United Nations-backed Global Handwashing Day, driving home the message that the simple use of soap and water can slash highly preventable diarrhoeal diseases that kill 1,400 children under five every day.

“Washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrhoeal disease and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children and communities,” UN News quoted the global head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes, Sanjay Wijesekera, saying in a message marking the Day, whose theme this year is The Power Is in our Hands.

“The simple act of handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to save children’s lives.”

In Ethiopia, some 5 million children are participating in handwashing demonstrations and workshops around the country. In Yemen, Global Handwashing Day celebrations will take place in 3,300 schools, involving 1.4 million children. There is also a mass media campaign aimed at sensitizing the public around hand washing. Read more