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In the villages of Aara, Kukui and Baridih, children learned the benefits of handwashing from a fun, structured game of hopscotch and created a handwashing station by painting earthen pots.
“It is tough to bring about habitual changes among people, especially among children,” said Ms Isha Singh, WSSCC’s Menstrual Health and Hygiene Coordinator for Jharkhand State.
Innovation for handwashing and awareness through fun activities
“We engaged the children to install innovative handwashing stations and informed them about the techniques of handwashing to bring a social and behavioural change among rural communities,” said Ms Singh.
“The children participated with much enthusiasm, and we were happy to see them creating awareness among their family members,” said Vishnu Pal, a resident of Aara Village.
“There was no dedicated handwashing station in the villages but, thanks to this awareness campaign, we now have this facility at our place for public meetings, at the temple, and in Anganwadi,” he said, referring to a type of rural child care centre.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), handwashing with soap remains a key recommendation in fighting the deadly coronavirus. Yet, a Government of India National Sample Survey (NSS) report from 2019 indicates that only 35.8% of the population of India uses soap or detergent when washing before a meal. Among rural populations, the figure drops to 25.3%.
“This is not enough to fight hand-derived infections. We need long-term investments and sustainable solutions for capacity building,” says Mr Vinod Mishra, WSSCC’s National Coordinator in India.
Inequities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene ‘shouldn’t exist’
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vast inequities in access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, especially in rural households, according to the head of Aara-Kekam village, Mr Babu Ram.
“Such inequities shouldn’t exist. We know that washing hands is important, but there is a lack of awareness in rural areas, and our socio-economic condition is not good,” he said.
Ms Singh points out that the major challenges in rural India are lack of awareness and non-availability of proper handwashing facilities in public places, which is what motivated her fun-based campaign for children.
“These games brought enthusiastic responses from the children, and taught them that if they don’t focus on hand hygiene, they will lose not only the game but also their health,” she said.
The WSSCC’s current transformation into the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund will enable the organization to scale up delivery of sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health to the world’s most vulnerable people, with a focus on ensuring that no one is left behind.