IRD Commemorates Global Handwashing Day at Rural Schools
A child at Kandenga primary school after signing a hand washing pledge to show his commitment to hand washing.
“Global Handwashing Day focuses on school children because they are…so often the most energetic, enthusiastic, and open to ideas. Children can be very powerful agents for changing behavior,” said the headmaster of Maunganidze Primary School during his remarks at the IRD-supported Global Handwashing Day commemorations.
October 15, 2012, marked the fifth anniversary of Global Handwashing Day. Hundreds of millions of people celebrated the day by emphasizing the importance of handwashing as an effective way to prevent disease. The focus of this year’s campaign was to “help more children reach their fifth birthday.” This year alone, nearly 121 million children will turn age 5. Many do not have adequate access to basic hygiene and sanitation services.
IRD joined in the celebrations by holding handwashing events at two schools in Chipinge and Buhera districts in Manicaland Province. Handwashing is an integral part of IRD’s water, hygiene, and sanitation programs in Zimbabwe. IRD has been working to improve access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation for communities across Zimbabwe since 2009. After the 2008/2009 cholera outbreak that killed over 4,280 people, IRD has provided nearly 45,000 people with access to clean drinking water through the installation of rooftop rainwater harvesting systems at households and schools. As part of a comprehensive program, IRD provides customized hygiene and sanitation trainings to school children, teachers, and community members on the importance of clean water and basic hygiene.
Hundreds of students from Kandenga and Maunganidze Primary schools participated in a series of activities promoting handwashing as a regular habit. Headmasters and district environmental health officers prepared speeches emphasizing that behavior change is more likely to occur when children are taught at an early age about the health benefits of handwashing. Activities included songs, dances, and original theatre performances prepared by school children along with the construction of tippy-taps by IRD hygiene officers. Tippy-taps are gaining in popularity across the globe as an affordable, simple handwashing technology that allows individuals to wash their hands with soap without the aid of an additional person. Tippy-taps are ideal for schools as they can be installed outside classrooms and sanitation facilities for students to use.
To demonstrate their commitment to handwashing, the headmaster and students at each school prepared and signed handwashing pledges. These pledges symbolize the collective dedication of the schools to incorporate handwashing into the daily routines of children and make a positive step towards reducing the number of days children miss school due to preventable illnesses. Through the success of events held at the schools, it validates that Global Handwashing Day is only one day, but it can have a lifetime impact on the lives of children and their families.