October 15, 2020

Odisha Channel Bureau
Bhubaneswar: Government officials, NGO activists and UNICEF come together to celebrate on Global Handwashing Day 2020 by launching a campaign for school students to promote hand hygiene and awareness on handwashing in Odisha on Thursday.

The campaign was launched by ST&SC Development Minister Jagannath Saraka during a webinar jointly organised by the STSC Department and UNICEF. Government officials, partner agencies, grassroot workers, youth activists among others participated in the webinar.

Speakers from all over emphasised the importance and need for minimal touch handwashing stations especially at the time of COVID-19 at schools and other public institutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission. It provides a reminder that a seemingly simple act as washing hands with soap is an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and ensure better health outcomes overall.

This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is Hand Hygiene for All, calling for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene now and for the future.

The webinar focussed on the need to ensure everyone, particularly those in rural areas and in schools, had access to hand hygiene facilities including handwashing facilities, regular water supply, soap and alcohol-based hand rub.

The webinar also stressed on encouraging behaviour change to adopt healthy hygiene practices and called for strengthened coordination, regular and financing for water and sanitation hygiene facilities and services.

More than 1,200 people participated from different districts including district welfare officers, Project administrator integrated tribal development agency, Headmaster of SSD schools, NGO Partners, SC & ST Development Department & UNICEF.

Saraka also inaugurated a minimal hand touch handwashing station at the premises of the Rayagada Collectorate and stressed on the importance of handwashing in our daily lives. He said minimal hand touch handwashing facilities would be set up in all schools and hostels of Odisha run by STSC department

Odisha Youth for Hand Hygiene for All

In another initiative, the Youth4Water volunteers reached out to more than 1000 youth directly and about 5000 youth through social media to spread the message – “handwashing, best defence against Covid”.

Youths and students of various schools and colleges across the state reached out to over 6,000 people to raise awareness on this topic to mark the Global Handwashing Day.

These youths, known as ‘Handwashing ambassadors’, are volunteers of #Youth4Water, a youth-led campaign on water, sanitation and hygiene being run by several organisations including Water Initiatives, Odisha (WIO), Patang, Gram Swaraj, Young India with support from UNICEF Odisha.

The campaign aims at reaching out to each youth of the state by 2024 with the messages of water/river conservation; sanitation; hygiene and climate change awareness.

Volunteers of the campaign, apart from directly interacting with 1000 community members belonging to 11 villages in 5 districts, also involved over 5000 people through social media posts.

A webinar titled, “Role of Youths in Promotion of Hand Hygiene for All” was also organised where the youth shared their experience of working as handwashing ambassadors.

They said, while maintaining hand hygiene is one of the most effective and simplest ways to stop spread of the virus, most of the communities where they tried to raise awareness lack basic facilities to practice handwashing frequently.

Handwashing Day was celebrated ay Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur

In yet another initiative, the Global Handwashing Day was celebrated together with White Cane Day for visually impaired persons, International Day of Rural Women, and Women Farmers’ Day.
The activities included taking a pledge on changing behaviours around handwashing, learning and teaching the right technique and demonstrations as well as discussion on advancing and improving the overall water and sanitation situation.

Across cities, communities which the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) works with have taken the pandemic head-on. They have trained fellow members in the right handwashing technique (for 20 seconds with soap and water), developed posters and wall messages, motivated peers to spread the message, and even set up foot-operated, affordable, locally crafted handwash stations.

Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, CFAR, said “In the midst of the pandemic, our biggest hope is the resilience of the communities living in informal settlements and their collective reminder to everyone that without equitable access to water and sanitation it is not possible to fight the virus. The Global Handwashing Day is as much about social inclusion and universal right to water and sanitation as about strengthening safe practices, especially for the most vulnerable.”

Community voices

Several community members from Odisha expressed their determination to follow and teach correct handwashing techniques. “We feel that it is very important to observe this day everywhere and by everyone, but it should not be restricted to only one day. We should follow the steps of hand-washing every day. This is more important, particularly during this time of pandemic,” said Kabita Kinner, a transgender from Bhubaneswar.

Another transgender, Muskaan Kinner said, “I was not aware about the eight steps of handwashing. I am very happy to learn this today and will follow the steps regularly while washing my hands.”

“I go out more frequently for work and begging and I always wash my hands after coming back home. It is very important to observe such important days and will make everyone more serious about the importance of hand washing,” said Lilly Kinner, a transgender from Bhubaneswar.

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