New Delhi, 15 October, 2008: “Go and wash your hands.” A request, sometimes a plea and often reduced to a command by many a parent. But today, no one had to say it again. It was as if the 400 odd children had been waiting for it….
Wearing the smart Global Hand Washing Day T-shirts and caps, children from the Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in Jor Bagh New Delhi, rushed to the identical blue buckets on tables around the school courtyard. While some poured water, others soaped up to the lines of the hand washing song promoted by Sachin Tendulkar in the TV spot on Hand Washing before eating food.
“First of all you should… wet your hands,
Then on your hands…the soap does a dance,
One hand then…meets the other,
The hand then does…a front-back number,
Then its time to play…in between the fingers,
And make the nails…move around in circles,
Then the water splashes on to your hands,
‘Cause clean hands are strong hands.” With a loud chorus, hands shot up in the air... a sign of victory. The first battle against germs and diseases seems to have been won here …at least this morning.
Only 53 percent of people in India wash hands with soap after defecation, 38 percent wash hands before eating and only 30 percent wash hands before preparing food. Many people don’t wash their hands because they believe that hands that look clean cannot make them sick.
This was the inauguration of the Global Hand Washing Day in Delhi on 15th October 2008. Earlier in the morning, welcoming the gathering comprising of almost 400 students and government officials, UNICEF Chief of the Child Environment section, Lizette Burgers said “Today we celebrate Global Handwashing Day with hundreds of millions of children washing hands with soap – not only in India but all over the world in 76 countries”.
To demonstrate this, a few primary school children walked up on stage to show everyone the 5 steps in scrubbing hands with soap. The children in the audience joined in by singing the lines of the song... an orchestrated performance by many standards!
Not to be left behind, they were followed by the officials on stage, many of whom unfortunately still had to master the simple 5 steps to wash hands with soap!
Inculcating the habit of washing hands with soap is essential not only among students but in the community as well. “You have to teach everyone at home in your family and your friends about the 5 steps in washing hands with soap,” said Director Education, Government of National Capital Region of Delhi, Chandra Bhushan, in his address to the students. “I hope that for the 1.2 million children in Delhi schools, this will become a habit that they will practice regularly.”
“Lets pause to think why we are doing this,” said Ann Hasselbalch, ”Hands may look clean but may carry many disease causing germs and bacteria. A single act of washing hands with soap removes that danger. “
The hand washing campaign is part of the a national campaign led by the Department of Drinking Water Supply and the Department of School Education and Literacy to promote hygiene and sanitation in schools all over India.
She brought out the need for promoting hand washing as only 53 percent of people in India wash hands with soap after defecation, 38 percent wash hands before eating and only 30 percent wash hands before preparing food. Many people don’t wash their hands because they believe that hands that look clean cannot make them sick.
“Washing of hands with soap is essential, because what is the use of a mid day meal if we eat it with dirty hands and we fall sick. We need to wash our hands to prevent disease but remember that the water used to wash hands should be used carefully as it is scarce in many areas,” cautioned Joint Secretary of the Department of Drinking Water Supply, Government of India, Vijay Bhaskar adding another dimension to hand washing.
The hand washing campaign is part of the a national campaign led by the Department of Drinking Water Supply and the Department of School Education and Literacy to promote hygiene and sanitation in schools all over India. In India according to estimates there are over half a billion people who defecate in the open, thereby creating an environment in which diseases can transmit easily. The pledge taken by all children included a promise to stop the practice of defecating in the open.
There was magic in the air transforming an otherwise ordinary act. All the children seemed completely aware of why and when they needed to wash hands with soap including Aman a student of class four, who thought that washing hands two times a day was good enough! Adoption of the handwashing habit will take time, as long as the magic remains…