By Ama Kudom-Agyemang,
Accra, Ghana
October 15, 2015

Today Thursday October 15th, 2015, is Global Hand Washing Day and Belinda Kotoka of the Konsuaso community in the Kejebi District of Ghana’s Volta region, is demonstrating that it is possible to wash one’s hands under running water no matter where.

It is an issue of simple ingenuity – “get a gallon, make a small hole and plug with a stick, fill it with water and then mount it on two sticks. When you’re ready to use it, just remove the plug and bingo, you have running water to wash your hands.”

Belinda Kotoka of Konsuaso, Kejabi District of Volta region in Ghana washing her hands
Belinda Kotoka of Konsuaso, Kejabi District of Volta region in Ghana washing her hands

Belinda and her entire community understand that simple hand washing is the single most inexpensive effective way to prevent the spread of infections especially among young women and children.

The fact is that we pick up germs with our hands from various points including when we use the toilet, during playing or working, from objects such as doorknobs and stair railings as well as from hand shakes. So when we forget to wash our hands, we can spread these germs to other people or give them to ourselves by touching our eyes, mouths, noses or cuts on our bodies.

Statistics compiled by UNICEF indicate that hand washing with soap at critical times – including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet – can reduce diarrhoea rates by more than 40 per cent and cut down the incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARI’s) such as influence and pneumonia by around 23 per cent.

Hand washing can also be a critical measure in controlling pandemic outbreaks of respiratory infections. Indeed, hand washing with soap has been cited as one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrhoeal related deaths and diseases.

The theme for this year’s Global Hand washing Day is “Raise a hand for hygiene.” It’s an action oriented theme to identify one as a hygiene champion. It is also a reminder that it is possible for governments to count how many people wash their hands and have access to hygiene facilities in homes, schools, and healthcare facilities. Additionally, it is a call on governments to measure hygiene indicators to know where resources should be concentrated.

Global Hand washing Day was created at the 2008 Annual World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden and initiated by the Public Private Partnership for Hand washing. The Day was first celebrated on October 15, 2008, to coincide of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation by the UN General Assembly.

The campaign was initiated to reduce childhood mortality rates, related respiratory and diarrheal diseases by introducing simple behavioral changes – hand washing with soap. So the message is simple and clear: “WASH YOUR HANDS TODAY, BE A CHAMPION FOR HYGIENE AND GOOD HEALTH.”

In Ghana, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency is facilitating the national celebration of Global Hand washing Day with a ceremony in Tamale.

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