Earlier this week, the world celebrated Global Handwashing Day (GHD) with this year’s theme, ‘Clean Hands for All’.

United Purpose, a Global Sanitation Fund implementing partner, was extremely active during this year’s milestone day. After following their activities on social media, WSSCC decided to contact United Purpose Nigeria to learn more about their activities. We spoke with Ms Boluwatito Awe, Communications and Learning Officer and Mr Nanpet Chuktu, Programme Manager.

Tell us about United Purpose’s activities around Global Handwashing Day

We held several initiatives across 10 Local Government Areas (LGAs). These are the geographic areas where the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) Programme is being implemented.


Children participating in handwashing activities

In the lead-up to Global Handwashing Day, 20 schools in Benue and Cross River States appointed students from each Environmental Health Club championing ‘Clean Hands for All’ with fun activities and demonstrations raising awareness on the importance of handwashing with soap. In addition, two children from each of the LGA events were selected to bring hygiene messages and share handwashing lessons to other schools which had not participated, amplifying the campaign’s reach. They also discussed the importance of running Environmental Health Clubs to ensure sanitation and hygiene is promoted in schools. Overall, 2,000 kids became “hygiene heroes” who took handwashing messages back to their classmates and communities.

Hygiene Heroes           

At the national level, the main commemoration of Global Handwashing Day, took place in Abuja. Here, United Purpose and PZ Cussons collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources’ National Task Group on Sanitation and the Popular musician and Hygiene Ambassador, Sunny Neji, entertaining school children on a ‘Wash Your Hands O’ rhythm and raising further awareness about the issue of handwashing with soap.

Beyond the physical events, a social media “Handwashing Champion” contest was also promoted on United Purpose platforms’ where Facebook was used as the main communication channel to engage children and people from all over Nigeria raising awareness about handwashing with soap.

What do you feel were your main Global Handwashing Day highlights?

United Purpose is particularly committed to leaving no one behind. Following GHD’s theme, “Clean Hands for All”, we were glad to bring handwashing messages at the Kuje School of the Deaf in Abuja. With the strong support of teachers facilitating activities through sign language, students and members of the education board were pleased with our participation and engagement.

Children participating in games and handwashing demonstrations

Another highlight was the declaration of commitment to handwashing and hygiene from Benue State, following Cross River State’s 2017 declaration. Benue State’s declaration was signed during a meeting organized by the wife of the Governor a few days before GHD, an event well-covered by media. A similar event was organized by the wife of the Cross River state Governor to reinforce the state’s commitment to leaving no one behind in the promotion of sanitation and hygiene in the state.

Why is the Global Handwashing Day important to United Purpose?

Hygiene promotion is a crucial component to United Purpose’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects. GHD gives us the opportunity to try innovative ways to promote handwashing with soap, for example, sharing handwashing messages with children who can share this information at home. In fact, while many communities focus on attaining Open Defecation Free (ODF) status by using a latrine, often the importance of handwashing with soap goes unmentioned. Many people do not see the link between handwashing and ending open defecation so there’s a need to reinforce the message which is: even if a village is ODF, people can still get sick via the fecal-oral transmission route. Global Handwashing Day was a concrete opportunity for us to revisit communities that have already committed to ending ODF and reiterate the idea that, after using the toilet, it is vital to wash your hands with soap.

Thank you to Boluwatito Awe and Nanpet Chuktu for sharing stories from Nigeria for this year’s Global Handwashing Day.