Author: Bella Mytton-Mills, Programmes Co-ordinator at Just a Drop

If we have learnt anything from the 2020 and 2021, it’s handwashing is crucial. With campaigns launched in pretty much all (or every?) countries around the world, to remind us all how to do it properly and the key times to do it throughout the day, it feels like we forgot the importance of this task in our everyday lives.  

It’s a task that we learn to do for ourselves from around the age of two, something that becomes part of our everyday routine, something we don’t really think about, an automatic habit for many. In the UK, we are used to being able to wash our hands whenever we want, with a flick of the tap and squeeze of the soap whether at home, at the office, or out and about. 

It’s a privilege we have, having access to clean water and soap on demand. But it’s something that shouldn’t be considered a privilege, it’s a basic human right. 2.27 billion people globally don’t have access to basic hygiene services at home. 

Put simply, handwashing with soap is an easy, effective, affordable do-it-yourself practice that prevents infections and saves lives. About 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world. 

This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together.” As global citizens still enduring a pandemic together, we have the power to support everyone to gain access to the first line of defence against so many infections and illnesses, including COVID-19. 

Top left: Pupils learning how to make liquid soap; Top right: Pupils from ABC Ilalambyu Primary School; Bottom left: Pupils washing hands at washing stations in school; Bottom right: Rainwater harvesting tank with hygiene messaging.

I have enjoyed working on projects over recent years to train communities and schools in making liquid soap. Teaching a new skill, giving them further access to better hygiene and an income generating activity – it has been a huge success. 

The importance of Global Handwashing Day is to remind ourselves of the significance of the simple act of washing hands and to find ways to support others without access, or with access but don’t see the importance. So much can be built from having access to clean water and soap, it leads to benefits in wellbeing, nutrition, education, economic growth and so much more. From such a simple action, so much transformation can happen. So let’s spread the word this Global Handwashing Day!  

Support Just a Drop to help transform people’s lives and help increase access to safe water and soap at home and in school. Everyone can make a difference. 

Mukai, a student at ABC Ilalambyu Primary School in Kenya, was interviewed on how she thought the hygiene training received at her school would change their lives and she said;

“this will be a very helpful training not only to us but to the entire community where we come from. Water borne diseases will reduce because now we have a know-how on controlling them. We will start using latrines especially near water points, and teach our young siblings as well as our neighbour’s why it’s important. We have not been washing our hands with soap but from today henceforth, we will utilize the knowledge gained and ensure that we wash our hands with clean water and soap. The knowledge gained will help us make soap throughout to ensure that there’s enough soap to clean our latrines, classes, utensils and especially for washing hands. Knowledge gained from food hygiene will help in ensuring that cooked food has been kept covered so as to prevent contamination but flies, serving the food while hot and washing fruits and vegetables with clean and flowing water.”

Pupils from ABC Ilalambyu Primary School

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