This year’s Global Handwashing Day (GHD) which felled on 15th October 2020 was indeed a special one because the awareness about the importance of hand hygiene has been increased since the outbreak of the COVID -19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, hand washing facilities in public places had not been a priority for governments and the private sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked the interest of the government, private sector, Media, Civil Society Organisations and individuals to mobilise resources towards handwashing with soap promotion. In addition, the government has given directives stipulating that handwashing facilities should be placed at the entrance to all public and private commercial spaces such as schools, shopping malls, markets, lorry parks or stations, airports, shops, places of worship, health care facilities, workplaces among others.
It is important to note that handwashing with soap is not a creation of COVID -19 pandemic. I will like to emphasize once again that there has been a lot of innovations in the wake of COVID -19 pandemic but the practice of handwashing with soap is not one of the innovative ideas discovered because of the outbreak of the COVID-19.
It is simply a part of our lives, a key hygiene practice that keeps the hands clean from contamination and prevent transmission of diseases.
Yes, adoption of hand hygiene behaviour has proved useful in containing previous outbreaks of infectious diseases, but the critical question now is, “Are we going to stop washing our hands beyond the pandemic and wait for another outbreak of infectious disease before we start paying attention to handwashing with soap”? The answer should be a Big No.
I have made disturbing observations- media campaign and awareness on handwashing with soap is dwindling, some people have stopped washing their hands, some handwashing facilities in public spaces have been removed or are not functioning (no water or soap), the last but not least is that mandatory handwashing with soap is gradually being replaced with mandatory wearing of nose mask – NO MASK NO ENTRY.
I am not against wearing of nose mask but it should be done together with handwashing with soap promotion. After all we need clean hands to put on the nose mask. What about ‘NO HAND WASHING AND NOSE MASK NO ENTRY’
This year’s theme for GHD, ‘Hand Hygiene for All’, could not have been more appropriate. The theme is a call to action to make hand hygiene a reality for all at all times. If even most people wash their hands with soap, we are all at risk because of the few who would not practice handwashing with soap.
To protect our lives now and be better prepared for any future outbreak there should be a universal hand hygiene. A culture of hygiene will not happen overnight. Making hand hygiene available and accessible for all requires a multi-faceted, all-inclusive approach.
A conscious effort is required through leadership and commitment at all levels – individual, household, community, district, regional and national. In addition, policy, coordination, regulation and financing which reinforce hand hygiene services and behavior change need to be strengthened.
There should be a fundamental shift in attitudes and behaviours towards handwashing with soap. Handwashing with soap must become normalized and habitual. What we need is collective action. We shall succeed only when Hand hygiene becomes everybody’s business and embedded in our everyday lives.
I will entreat everyone not to relent on their endeavors towards promotion of handwashing with soap to build on the current momentum and make hand hygiene a mainstay in public health interventions beyond the pandemic.
It is now time for all Ghanaians to put hand hygiene in its proper perspective. Let us maintain the hand hygiene practice or behaviour and make handwashing facilities available and accessible in homes, communities, schools, workplaces, health facilities and all public spaces.
A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. The power to save lives is in your hands.
Mrs. Theodora Adomako-Adjei, Head Of Extension Services,
Community Water And Sanitation Agency