Benefits of managing wash services and applying good hygiene

Under these Covid -19 times, handwash hygiene in India received greater prominence and thrust from political leadership at the highest level.

Handwashing has been always promoted as the best preventive against disease transmission and safeguarding health. Under these Covid -19 times, handwash hygiene in India received greater prominence and thrust from political leadership at the highest level. It was accelerated by repeated media messaging, IEC campaigns, capacity development, and promoting low cost local innovation that brought soap and water together. However, right to hygiene the basic right of every individual was significantly missing at institutional levels and public places. It lacked proportionate funding and impacted vulnerable communities the most who were unable to protect themselves and their family with the simplest methods. Handwashing with soap the modest and simplest yet critical tool against fighting diseases is unfortunately beyond millions around the world.

According to a study, only 3 out of 5 people worldwide have access to basic handwashing facilities and 40 per cent of the world’s population, or nearly 3 billion people, do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. In India, over 120 million households still lack access to clean water near their homes, the highest in the world, according to UN-Water. According to UNICEF 91 million urban Indians lack basic handwashing facilities at home. Meanwhile, the National Sample Survey, 2019, reported that only 36 per cent of households in India washed their hands before eating and only 74 per cent cleaned their hands with soap after defecation, this creates a higher risk of illnesses and diseases spreading like diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis – including coronavirus.

Contaminated water causes diseases such as diarrhoea, the third leading cause of childhood mortality in India, according to researchers Subitha Lakshminarayanan and Ramakrishnan Jayalakshmy of Puducherry’s Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research and Indira Gandhi Medical College. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that handwashing infrastructure that is safe and accessible is available, we promote collaborative and collective efforts to ensure sustained behavior change programs that draw messages from implementation and are monitored and evaluated, we involve multiple stakeholders in rethinking and improved WASH services

The SEWAH program Sustainable Enterprises for Water and Health a USAID and Safe Water Network led alliance has demonstrated an unique appetite for collaboration and coordination to leverage their Water ATMs as ‘Water Knowledge Resource Centers’ (WKRCs) in 14 cities across 10 States of India for hand Wash hygiene promotion to mitigate Covid -19. These organizations like Drinkwell, JanaJal, Rite Waters, Waterlife, WaterHealth use their Water ATMs as sites for citizenship engagement where the city corporation officials, local women Self Help Groups and NGOs promote hand wash hygiene for disease mitigation. This collaboration has brought economies due to using shared advocacy tools and techniques, lower investment for WASH infrastructure as local materials like bucket with tap, clay pots with taps and accelerated the program and reach.

But a lot needs to be done hence, the organization is campaigning for urgent investment in clean water and hygiene services so that, the opportunity to drastically improve water and hygiene services in communities and healthcare facilities must not be missed. Also, we are calling for global leaders to ensure communities and healthcare facilities have these essentials, to protect people during this pandemic and build resilience to future global health crises. We are supporting initiatives to put hand wash hygiene at the centre. The densely populated urban slums with inappropriate infrastructure, schools in the urban and rural areas with lack of handwashing facilities with soap and water are at the greatest risk of infection. Lack of infrastructure has also become a cause of concern for maintaining the safety of the women population especially the girl children, pregnant women, lactating mothers. It is proven by researchers that with basic hand hygiene solutions one can prevent 80% of the diseases such as respiratory tract, GI tract or skin and eyes. In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally declared India free of open defecation and stated that Government has built 110 million toilets for more than 600 million people in 60 months. The Government has also invested vehemently under Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign for advocating people about the benefits of maintaining clean hygiene.

Availability of piped drinking water in households is one of the critical components for achieving universal access to safe drinking water in the country. In 2019, the Government also launched Jal Jeevan Mission aiming to create a uniform water supply infrastructure across the country so that every rural household has a functional household tap connection by 2024. India has 189 million rural households, according to the official data. Till August 16, 51 million households, or 27% of the total, were provided with tap water connection under the joint Centre-state Jal Jeevan mission. This highlights that the authorities still need to provide water connection to another 138 million households, or 73% remaining, by 2024.

In the wake of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, people have become more aware of practising good hygiene and have started using disinfectants and hand sanitisers in public places. Communities have also adopted low-cost affordable solutions like bio-toilets, rainwater conservation, turning clay pots and buckets into water storage by installing a tap has become more prevalent thus mitigating the water wastage. Even Government has made it mandatory for Government schools, Asha Anganwdis to have a mandatory supply of water and are developing infrastructures to facilitate hygiene practices. A lot of corporates, development organisations, NGOs have come forward like Honeywell, Pentair, PepsiCo, USAID, JanaJal, UNICEF, Tata Foundation with information campaigns and advertisements to create awareness among the masses. Through consistent awareness drive, maintaining hygiene and sanitation have started gaining momentum. Coupled with Government initiatives usage of toilet hygiene and frequent hand washing habits are expected to assist communities to overcome numerous infectious diseases and WASH challenges in the years ahead.

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