The Ministry of Health (MOH) in partnership with local and international organizations in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene marked the 12th edition of the Global Handwashing Day. Held on October 15, the day is designed to champion global advocacy dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap and trigger lasting change from the policy-level. At an event held at Amref University, speakers reinforced the need for stakeholders support government efforts in countering the pandemic and hygiene related diseases through the incorporation of basic hygiene practices.
Themed ’Hand Hygiene for All’, this year’s celebrations sought to raise awareness of making soap and water available globally, especially in public places, schools, and health care facilities. It also called for institutions and individuals to improve hand hygiene efforts in the COVID-19 response that will outlast the pandemic and ensure continued access to clean water and soap.
Giving the keynote address, Her Excellency the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta noted “In this era of social and physical distancing, hand washing has become an important element of our newly confined lives. When the novel coronavirus emerged as a global pandemic, handwashing entered the spotlight as an important way to limit the spread of infectious diseases”.
During her address, the First Lady also launched the “#Nimenawa” campaign, an initiative designed to encourage and remind citizens countrywide to remember to wash their hands rightly and regularly.
During the pandemic period, studies have shown handwashing is an effective first line defense in the fight against diseases besides being one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of opportunistic and a number of infectious diseases including diarrhea, cholera, Ebola and Covid-19.
With over 3 billion people globally without access to proper hand washing facilities, preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia claim the lives of 2.8 million children across the globe with over 34,000 deaths attributed hygiene related causes in Kenya (90 deaths per day) more than 90 deaths per day.
Cognizant of this, the significance of this day is towards eliminating such deaths by making hand washing facilities and knowhow accessible to all. The celebrations also highlighted the numerous opportunities people should remember to wash their hands- before eating and or handling food, after using the toilet, when in contact with dirty surfaces and or money among others.
Speaking at the celebrations NBCC Chair Dr. Myriam Sidibe noted the pandemic period exposed the glaring gaps between hand washing and its ‘siblings” water and hygiene a dissonance the NBCC coalition and other likeminded partners have been working to reduce. During the last 7 months, NBCC has delivered over 7000 hand washing stations complete with soap and attendants all over the country granting access to much needed facilities to millions of Kenyans daily.
The impact of this improved reach has been not only helped keep the Covid-19 curve flat, it has also helped significantly reduce incidences of other infectious and hygiene related infections.
Thanking the various stakeholders in the revival of the hand washing narrative, Amref Health Africa Group CEO Dr Githinji Gitahi noted, “We need to think about hand hygiene every day and not to only keep COVID-19 at bay, but to also maintain a healthy livelihood. This is also a reminder to Governments that access to water and sanitation is key, and as such should be treated as a public good to ensure access to all.”
He added, as a coalition, the NBCC together with other partners is committed to change the hand-washing behaviors by educating and empowering communities on that hand-washing with running water and soap. Towards this end, distribution of hand washing facilities is being complemented by behavior change narrative to help reinforce the new normal in our community.
During the celebrations, four hand washing innovations were recognized three of these were rewarded for the solutions they present to the larger community. Some of the initiatives highlighted demonstrated drive and amplification of consumer education, awareness and prevention measures on the pandemic, mobilizing retailers and suppliers in distribution of essentials services and products in the low income and urban slums countrywide and setting up hygiene centers across identified hotspots in vulnerable populations and the
Present at the function were MOH Cabinet Secretary- Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, CAS Health Dr Mercy Mwangangi Rotary District Governor Patrick Obath, Amref Health Africa CEO Dr Githinji Gitahi, UNICEF Country Representative Jean Lokenga, Unilever CEO Mr. Justin Apsey, PSK Country CEO Mrs. Joyce Wanderi, UKAID Sustainable Development Director Mr. Rick Erlebach, and UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Siddharth Chartejee,