15 October 2008: There was energy and buzz across all the states as 100 million children in a hundred thousand schools and 250 thousand Gram Panchayats village associations in India prepared for the first-ever Global Handwashing Day. The event was orchestrated by the Government of India’s Department of Drinking Water Supply and Department of School Education and Literacy in partnership with UNICEF. Every state had something innovative planned and the media lent their support to enhance the impact of this event.
5.4 million school children in 78,000 government-run rural and urban schools across Andhra Pradesh participated in the campaign. Activities included a cabinet and special meeting health and hygiene issues, handwashing with soap following the five steps and teachers administering pledges to students.78,000 teachers participated in the orientation program, organised twice over two weeks at 4,000 cluster resource centers.
Over a two-week period, the State Water and Sanitation Mission worked to get posters, pamphlets and banners printed and distributed across 78,000 schools in the state. The cabinet minister and secretary for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation and their staff, UNICEF staff, District Collectors and other officials participated in the campaign.
The district administration in Dibrugarh organised the launch ceremony for the Global Handwashing Day with UNICEF and other NGO partners in different blocks of the district. Ashutosh Agnihotri, deputy commissioner, Dibrugarh, expressed his belief that with regular handwashing with soap the health of children and their families would improve. The children of two schools organised a rally that marched in procession to different areas of the village to spread the message about the importance of handwashing.
At the Dornapal Relief Camp, about 2,000 school children washed their hands after a special meal of Puri and Kheer. The Tribal Welfare Department, the local NGO Vanwasi Chetna Ashram under the ECHO WASH project, and UNICEF organised special activities with the children at the relief camp school at Dornapal in the conflict affected part of district Dantewada. Proud parents watched their children perform a skit "water and soap" in their local Gondi language by the students of Balak Ashram Dobakounta.
About 4 million children in 53,000 schools participated in the Global Handwashing Day events across the state.
The first-ever Global Handwashing Day was celebrated by children and villagers at Tetri Government School in Ranchi. The Minister of Human Resource Development and the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Mass Awareness Campaign that will cover 212 blocks from 24 districts over 5 days (October 15-19, 2008). The campaign on promoting handwashing with soap will cover rural areas to promote the use of toilets and the importance of handwashing among the community. The function, jointly organised by the Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, Department of Human Resource Development and UNICEF, was attended by development partners working in the state. Members of Child Cabinets demonstrated the steps for washing hands with soap and pledged to carry the message back home with them.
More than 38,000 schools in the state celebrated the day reaching out to almost five and half million children. Around 61 percent schools in Jharkhand have toilets facilities and practicing handwashing with soap is seen as an easy habit to inculcate.
The Education Department in Nandurbar organised a training workshop for teachers who will carry out an intensive handwashing drill for an intensive period of eight days. The department partnered with the media to provide intensive coverage of the issue. The idea was to ensure that this is not only a one time activity but that children will pledge act as ambassadors to take forward the hygiene message to their families and village communities. In spite of midterm exams, the Zila Parishad Schools responded enthusiastically to the call for observing basic hygiene practices.
NGO teams, supported by UNICEF, worked with village Public Health Centers. Village volunteers ensured that the PRIs village associations, Youth Groups, and other community-based groups were involved with the process. Local health officials provided guidance on the subject by organising village-level rallies, debates and discussions. The NGO teams strategically used the existing forum of Gramastha Diwas village days to highlight the importance of washing hands with soap. In some villages, the mobilisation efforts resulted in motivating the community to offer shramdaan donations for cleaning the village.
The first-ever Global Handwashing Day, supported by UNICEF and jointly organized by the State's Panchayat and Rural Development, School Education and Tribal Welfare departments and Mid-day Meal Scheme was a great success. About 2,700 students from seven schools washed their hands with soap to promote awareness about how a lack of effective sanitation and poor hygiene practices can cause death and disease. Handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet was the key message to prevent diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia, causing almost 3.5 million child deaths every year.
The function was attended by the UNICEF state representative, Hamid el-Bashir, Principal Secretary, I.S. Dani, Panchayat and Rural Development Department, B.R. Naidu, Public Instruction Secretary, Manoj Jhalani, School Education commissioner, State Programme Officer Rashmi Arun Shami and other government officials. “Unless we are healthy, we cannot make the country healthy. To maintain health we should take care of even small things like washing of hands,” Naidu said.
The Bhopal programme was part of handwashing events in 136,570 schools by 12 million students. The programme was also held in various colleges and organizations.
The event was widely covered through print and electronic media e.g.. HT, Pioneer, Deshbandh, Swadesh, Nav Dunia, Danik Bhaskar, Danik Jagaran, Raj express, Nav Bharat, Aaj Tak, Sahara Samay, See TV, ETV, Voice of India and Doordarshan.
In Orissa, the Rural Development Minister attended a high profile advocacy event in a primary school in Khurda district and reiterated the importance of handwashing with soap to prevent disease. A public service announcement was aired on all the leading radio channels and the print media covered the celebrations.
The Public Health Engineering Department and Rajasthan Council for Elementary Education, along with other partners including UNICEF achieved amazing results in schools across Rajasthan. Independent monitoring indicates that 94 per cent of the 100,000 schools targeted were reached. This equates to 11,750,000 students. This is a great achievement for a state which only had toilets in 52 per cent of schools in 2004. This is a great achievement for all concerned and will have a long term impact on children's lives across Rajasthan.
Hospitals lead the way in handwashing. Fortis Escorts Hospital in Jaipur conducted training sessions for different sections of health care workers including nurses, doctors, security and general staff to spread awareness about five steps of handwashing.
A TV spot prepared by UNICEF on the issue of handwashing, featuring cricket star Sachin Tendulkar, was shown to the staff. It served as a great motivator as the ‘master blaster’ is a role model for many of the staff members.
Nurses, general staff and doctors alike, including the staff in the Intensive Care Units and Food and Beverage department were tested for their awareness and were trained in the correct method of washing hands. The staff, performing the correct five steps, was rewarded with small gifts.
All schools in the State organized programmes to promote handwashing with soap. In the state capital, Chennai, the programme was launched by the Deputy Mayor at Chindadripet School and attended by the UNICEF State Representative and members of the Chennai Corporation council. More than 53,000 schools across the state involving 13 million children participated in the event. The school activities involved a rally and handwashing demonstration.
For younger children and their mothers, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centers all over the state organised special programmes to promote hygiene and handwashing messages. About 47,000 ICDS centers across the state targeted 140,000 children and 100,000 mothers. Similarly the 1,427 primary health centers in the state organized special programmes to promote the message of hygiene and handwashing through demonstrations for out-patients and staff across the state.
Global Handwashing Day was celebrated across the state of Uttar Pradesh in close collaboration with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan education flagship programme, involving 130,331 schools in 71 districts in the state. The event was inaugurated by Dr. Dharam Singh Saini, Minister, Basic Education, Government of UP at the Junior High School in the state capital of Lucknow.
While most of the activities were primarily focused in rural areas, they spread out to include schools in urban areas as well. Various private schools in urban areas including madarasas also celebrated the event. Some of the schools decided to ensure that handwashing day does not remain a single day event - schools in Lalitpur district in the state will celebrate the event for one week.
More than 2,000 National Cadet Corps youth from five colleges and 14 schools celebrated Global Handwashing Day with rallies and demonstrations to show the five steps for handwashing in Raghunathpur, Jhalda and Balarampur blocks of Purulia district in West Bengal.
The cadets of Mahatma Gandhi College at Lalpur in Purulia marched the roads of Chakalta village in the district carrying banners, canvassing on microphones and distributing leaflets describing the benefits of handwashing. They showed members of the community how thoroughly rubbing the whole surface of hands, joints of fingers and the corner of nails with soap is necessary to remove germs after using the toilet and before eating or cooking.