This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern at HKI Bangladesh.
Around the world, from large urban centers to tiny rural villages, from the United States to Bangladesh, in schools, homes, community and health centers, people are celebrating Global Handwashing Day! Regularly washing hands with soap before or after critical daily activities which spread germs, like after using the toilet or before eating, can lead to reduced instances of many illnesses such as Neglected Tropical Diseases, like trachoma, or diarrhea and several respiratory diseases.
In Bangladesh, where diarrheal disease still affects much of the population, Helen Keller International is educating people in its nutrition programs about the health benefits and importance of handwashing with soap. Through simple handwashing materials produced in Bangla, the local language, and regular demonstrations of proper handwashing techniques by local health workers, HKI is helping women learn the best methods and times for handwashing. Women are encouraged to share this information with their families and teach children the importance of handwashing from an early age.
Most of the population of Bangladesh lives without running water, requiring household members, often women, to collect water from local underground tubewells or ponds, which can be up to several kilometers from the home. The time and labor required to collect water for household activities as well as yearly dry seasons can create a premium for water within the home. To reduce any barriers to handwashing caused by concerns of wasting water, HKI teaches women how to make a simple, low-flow handwashing station, called a Tippy Tap. Women are encouraged to hang this simple tool, made from locally available materials, near their kitchens and latrines with a bar of soap. The Tippy Tap can also serve as a reminder to wash hands at specific times when germ contamination is high. Additionally, the simple handwashing station allows beneficiaries to wash their hands close to their homes and does not require them to travel to a pond or tubewell for water each time they need to wash their hands.
Parvim Begum, a beneficiary of HKI’s Homestead Food Production program in Khulna, Bangladesh shared that “before learning from the program, we didn’t wash our hands after the latrine, but now we know about washing our hands after going to the latrine and use the Tippy Tap.” HKI strives to ensure that people across Bangladesh are consuming nutritious, healthy food, and by teaching handwashing practices we are working to make sure it is germ-free food as well! Happy Global Handwashing Day from HKI Bangladesh!