“Life and death are in our hands.”
“Clean hands save lives.”
Our hands play vital roles in our daily lives. From touching, grasping, holding, and working, they help us spread germs–which are almost everywhere–from person to person. However, this risk of our hands carrying and spreading germs can be managed through proper handwashing procedures.
Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is a global advocacy day set aside to increase awareness about the importance of handwashing and to trigger lasting change and community-driven action.
Every year, DRASA Health Trust commemorates this day as part of our scope of work in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
This year, the theme Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene highlights the need for collaboration of different stakeholders to ensure that regular handwashing is incorporated at all levels: from policy all the way down to our communities. As such, our team visited 6 schools and also a market. The schools selected were part of our 2021/22 AMR School Program in both Lagos and Osun States; 4 schools were selected from Lagos and 2 schools in Osun state. The schools were Ansar Ud Deen Senior High School Surulere (Lagos), Apapa Senior High School Apapa (Lagos), Estate Senior Grammar School Ilupeju (Lagos), Matori Senior Grammar School Isolo (Lagos), Anglican Commercial Grammar School Osogbo (Osun) and Our Lady’s Girls High School, Modakeke (Osun). The market outreach was done at the Arena Market, Oshodi, Lagos.
The purpose of this outreach was to advocate for increased awareness and adoption of best sustainable practices, policies, and structures to promote hand hygiene not just within our communities but at a systems level. According to the US Centres for Disease Control, washing hands with soap and water regularly could reduce deaths from diarrheal diseases by up to 50% and prevent up to 1 million deaths a year.
Handwashing also reduces the incidence of foodborne disease outbreaks and the risk of respiratory illnesses. Moreover, appropriate hand hygiene is effective for preventing up to 50% of avoidable infections acquired during healthcare delivery, including those affecting the health workforce. Handwashing has also been linked to benefits beyond disease reduction, such as reduced rates of school absenteeism, and recently, programs aimed at encouraging older children to perform regular handwashing in school have been central to safe school-reopening strategies and preventing school closures.
School children and market traders require periodic hand hygiene due to the nature of their environments – school and work – which require hands-on learning and/or handling currency notes. Hence the need for us to reach them with our yearly handwashing campaign.
At the schools, we reached a total of 1,566 students and 84 teaching staff. We worked with our focal teachers and Youth Trainers to engage with these students and in turn, we had student volunteers and our DRASA Ambassadors (student members of our Health and Hygiene Clubs) demonstrate the proper handwashing procedure and the important moments for performing a handwash.
This was followed by a rendition of the handwashing song which the students learned in our Club meetings. Thereafter, there were question and answer sessions, where students could ask questions related to hand hygiene and handwashing and receive answers from the DRASA team.
The students were also asked questions to gauge their level of understanding and those who answered correctly were given prizes. The schools were presented with cartons of liquid handwashing soap on behalf of DRASA Health Trust.
The second event was an outreach targeted at market traders and buyers to educate them on the importance and steps of proper handwashing. The event was held at Arena market in Oshodi, Lagos state.
The event started with an introduction of DRASA Health Trust and what we do as an organization, followed by the need for market traders to be involved in celebrating Global Handwashing Day, as well as an interactive session where one market woman volunteered to be involved in demonstrating handwashing.
The steps, tips, and timing for proper handwashing were taught and buyers in the market stopped to listen to the teaching alongside the men and women working in the market.
Then a proper handwashing demonstration was carried out by a volunteer and he was assessed. Participants learned the handwashing song from the DRASA team using a common tune – the happy birthday song – and one participant taught us another handwashing song which she learned from her children. The time for questions and answers was very engaging as both market sellers and buyers eagerly wanted to answer the questions. Prizes were given for correct answers and participation and a carton of liquid handwashing soap was also donated to the market management. A total of 60 participants were present at the event.
At the end of these events, students, market traders, and buyers were able to understand the importance of handwashing in their daily lives and also demonstrate the proper handwashing steps without supervision. Knowing the potential of handwashing to save lives, we look forward to many more opportunities to spread this campaign to even more communities.