Zambia pushes to make handwashing a habit!

13 Oct 2016

Ahead of Global handwashing Day on 15 October 2016 - Jessy Sing’ute, Research and Advocacy Officer at Vision Africa Regional Network (VAREN) tells us about their activities and actions to help make handwashing a habit in Zambia.

VAREN is joining millions of people across the globe in raising awareness and sensitising people on the importance of handwashing. This is in line with this year’s Global Handwashing Day theme “Make Handwashing a Habit” which emphasises the need to consistently practice handwashing with soap for it to be more effective.

Through a range of different activities, such as conducting drama performances to highlight the importance of washing hands with soap, through to developing commitment pledge cards for schools to promote and practice the washing of hands with soap at all critical times, held across our province, we will show our support of Global Handwashing Day and really drive home our message of the importance of handwashing with soap.

For example, we will be supporting schools and health facilities directly by installing mass handwashing stations to increase access to sanitation and hygiene services. VAREN will focus on holding group discussions with specific target groups including pupils and teachers, healthcare professionals and new or expectant mothers to explain the importance of hand washing with soap in the lead up to Global Handwashing Day. We will also be conducting handwashing demonstrations explaining the seven steps to proper handwashing.

Nurse demonstrates handwashing practices

A nursing officer at Buntugwa Health Facility demonstrates to expectant mothers the seven steps in handwashing.

Mothers as pioneers of behavioral change

Recognising the critical role played by mothers in ensuring that children are happy and health, VAREN prioritised engaging with expectant mothers, and took the time to visit Buntungwa health facility located in Mansa District of Lupuala province of Zambia. We held a workshop in order to educate mothers-to-be on the importance making handwashing a habit as a critical way of reducing diarrheal related diseases and help their unborn children grow up healthy and disease free. The awareness talk was followed by a detailed demonstration on handwashing with soap from the nursing officer in charge at the hospital. All the mothers-to-be learnt the specific steps to follow to ensure effective handwashing is practiced to help prevent diseases and health difficulties.

VAREN demonstrates to mothers-to-be about handwashing

Research and Advocacy Officer Jessy Sing’ute gives a talk to mothers-to-be on the importance of making handwashing a habit.

The Soap Message - children as agents of change

In continuing our commitment to promote the fundamental importance of water, sanitation and hygiene, VAREN has dedicated itself to provide information on the importance of making hand washing amongst school going children in community schools. The activities are aimed at encouraging behaviour change through the message of make handwashing a habit as a sustainable way of preventing diarrhea, diseases and improving the performance of pupils.

Schools have been identified as important locations in which to enforce behavioural change in children, as children are such powerful agents of change - as teaching them young helps to enforce lifelong habits for a generation, and they help to spread the message in their homes and with their families too.  To encourage this, VAREN has constructed appropriate child-friendly sanitary facilities with handwashing stations in community schools three provinces around Zambia to effectively reduce the incidence of diarrhea and realise this year’s theme of making handwashing a habit. Schools have been targeted bearing in mind the excellent opportunities they provide in supporting sanitation and hygiene promotion programmes. The curriculum naturally offers opportunities to teach about dirt and disease and what can practically be done to improve health through better sanitation and hygiene.

Handwashing demonstrations with school children in Zambia

Teachers demonstrate the steps in hand washing with soap in Mabumba village of Luapula province

We have also developed radio programmes and jingles with ‘handwashing with soap’ messages, along with live radio discussions with health experts and children, all in the lead up to the main campaign day on 15 October to spread our message as far as possible. Together for a better future!

For all resources on Global Handwashing Day, visit the campaign’s website and visit the planner’s guide.