October 29, 2018

Global Handwashing Day – not just another ‘global day’

Written by United Purpose Nigeria

Children in a line using tippy taps

How do you make sure one day of symbolic action, media attention and advocacy – notwithstanding their importance – translates into sustainable behaviour change? This is why Global Handwashing Day (GHD) on the 15th October is not just ‘another global day’ for United Purpose. Each year, we embark on a month-long media and activity-based campaign to advocate for and raise awareness on handwashing with soap. The relative lack of attention in both development and media circles on handwashing with soap is why we need days such as GHD, as they remind us how simple and cheap the solution to serious hygiene-related diseases can be. The day can also be used creatively to launch an outreach campaign or to celebrate behaviour change achievements.

By bringing together famous musicians, communities and the private sector United Purpose empowers thousands of school children as hygiene promoters throughout the month of October. In this way, we use the month of October to make handwashing a mantra, and ensure that the message resounds in the minds of the people, far beyond the 15th of October. After all, with more frequent exposure to a certain message, the adoption of certain health behaviours becomes more likely.

Handwashing is only effective if carried out with use of soap. This is why United Purpose partners with a soap making company, PZ Cussons, thereby providing the complete recipe for effective handwashing. The theme for this year’ Global Handwashing Day campaign, ‘Clean Hands – a Recipe for Health’ reminds us of how simple the solutions to serious issues arising from poor hand hygiene can be.

This year 68,581 school children from 266 schools were engaged through activities targeted at schools across 12 Local Government Areas (LGA) in Benue and Cross River states and the Federal Capital of Nigeria. The events in Cross River and Benue states were held in LGAs already committed to improving their sanitation practices under the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) funded by the Global Sanitation Fund of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and Community-led Health Improvement through Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (CHISHPIN) funded by UKAID, both executed by United Purpose.

Children performing on stage

At the events, the theme of the 2018 Global Handwashing Day was highlighted and the children were engaged in fun handwashing themed activities. This includes quizzes and debates on handwashing, singing and dancing competitions to Sunny Neji’s campaign anthem ‘Wash Your Hands O’, and games such as the glitter ball experiment, where children experience directly how using soap is necessary to remove ‘sticky’ germs (the glitter). 2445 kids became Hygiene Heroes who were equipped to take the handwashing message back to their various schools and communities.

In the run-up to the 15th of October, the most enthusiastic children and their teachers took the lead in organising a mass handwashing activity on the 15th. They constructed group handwashing stations, gave talks on the importance of handwashing and taught their peers the steps to effective handwashing. On top of this, because we know kids learn quickly from their peers, selected Hygiene Heroes were empowered to take the handwashing message to neighbouring schools that were unable to participate in the GHD celebration at their various LGAs. Using a peer-to-peer learning approach, the Hygiene Heroes inspired other school children and demonstrated how to construct group handwashing stations using locally available materials. With these activities the Hygiene Heroes further reached 58,006 children to raise their awareness on handwashing.

To amplify the effect of this year’s advocacy campaign on handwashing, the main celebration event on the 15th of October was taken to the Federal Capital (Abuja) where United Purpose and PZ Cussons collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources’ National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) to ensure that key government officials were in attendance.

Through media, millions of other people in Nigeria and globally are being reached through jingles aired on radio, TV interviews, use of explainer video on handwashing and the #WashYourHandsO social media campaign.

Watch here how United Purpose promotes commitment to handwashing not just on Global Handwashing Day but beyond:

Boy giving thumbs up Shive Doosugh
Logo LGA
‘I have learnt that washing hands is good for our health’
Girl posing for photo Marlene Anwuka
Obanliku LGA
‘I have learnt the 6 important times I should not forget to wash my hands. I must wash my hands to prevent diseases’
All photo credits: United Purpose Nigeria