On the occasion of the Global Handwashing Day 2016, celebrated on 15 October worldwide, students and community residents of Gaddap Town, Karachi, and Peon Colony and Sehrish Nagar, Hyderabad, gathered to demonstrate the importance of handwashing through advocacy walks, interactive plays, and debates. USAID, UNICEF, and UN-Habitat supported the efforts of the advocators as part of their water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) initiative in Sindh province to promote this year’s theme – ‘make handwashing a habit’.
Gaddap Town in Karachi and Peon Colony and Sehrish Nagar in Hyderabad, Sindh are marked as polio endemic areas and therefore require immediate attention in regards to sanitation. In the midst of an unclean environment, it is critical to ensure that the residents maintain proper personal hygiene, especially washing hands with soap, to control diseases from spreading. Therefore, UNICEF and UN-Habitat gathered around 700 school students over a period of one week to advocate for handwashing through advocacy walks around the community, demonstration of proper handwashing, and interactive plays and dramas, and debates that highlight the consequences of not washing hands and the benefits from regularly washing hands with soap.
Ms. Bella Evidente, UN-Habitat Country Programme Manager, stated that “With the Sindh Government’s support and UNICEF’s funding, UN-Habitat worked in Gaddap Town, which is a hazardous area due to polio endemic, and Hyderabad to provide broader assistance to the Government of Pakistan by implementing an innovative approach through provision of improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Before UN-Habitat these communities were not using hygienic techniques, children barely washed their hands and were completely oblivious to the concept of hand washing with soap. Raising awareness regarding proper sanitation on Global Handwashing Day is a part of UN-Habitat’s continuous efforts to change lives and effectively accomplish SDG 11 in Pakistan through programmes and campaigns aimed at making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”
Global handwashing day is an international advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. It is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. This year’s theme claims that in order for handwashing to be effective, it must be practiced consistently at key times, such as after using the toilet or before contact with food. While habits must be developed over time, this theme emphasizes the importance of handwashing as a ritual behavior for long-term sustainability.