By Nirbhay K
UNICEF reports that, “Over 1.5 million children under five die each year as a result of diarrhoea. It is the second most common cause of child deaths worldwide.”
UNICEF also suggests a workable solution to the issue, “Handwashing with soap at critical times – including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet can reduce diarrhoea rates by more than 40%. Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of Acute Respiratory Infections by around 23%.”
Global Handwashing Day is annually celebrated on October 15, is a global advocacy day, dedicated to increasing awareness on the importance of handwashing to stay healthy. The Global Handwashing Portal states that the theme for 2017 is, Our hands, our future! The theme, reminds us that handwashing protects our own health, but also allows us to build our own futures, as well as those of our communities, and the world.”
The portal also states that, Global Handwashing Partnership is a coalition that brings together the expertise, experience, ideas, resources, and reach of the public and private sectors around the world to promote handwashing with soap.”
The emphasis is clear, “recognize hygiene as a pillar of international development and health as an easy, effective, and affordable do-it-yourself vaccine that prevents infections and saves lives.”
The subject in the discussion is one of the listed items of Schedule VII of the CSR Act. Moreover, contributing to the mission also provides an impetus in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – contributing in eradicating poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation. It is also a pragmatic way towards building partnerships in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Health is a complex issue to solve and the Global Handwashing mandate seems to be clear and easy to rollout. It believes that handwashing with a soap is an effective way to prevent diseases, more so it is affordable and acts as a preventive measure. It is an acceptable fact that the disease treatment is always expensive and resuming to normal life comes with a cost, both time and money. In the developing and underdeveloped countries, lack of health is equivalent of missing out work. It curtails daily wage earning capacity, impacting earning with serious implications on food intake and thereby opening floodgates to vicious cycle of poverty. Therefore, calling the campaign as a do-it-yourself vaccine is apt and realistic.
One may wonder, what’s need to create an additional platform to participate when there are as many campaigns around cleanliness, health and hygiene. Global Handwashing Day is yet another campaign to replicate successes in as many ways to urge people to embrace handwashing as a practice.
It is a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and moreover it fits very well into our existing national campaigns such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan/Clean India Mission, Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya/Clean India: Clean Schools, and recently launched Swacchata Hi Seva campaign. It is an opportunity to reiterate what we have been doing as a country. It is yet another lead to infuse the message in as many ways. And the message should continue to ring in ears.
India’s participation in such a campaign would be significant way to demonstrate our alignment to global efforts in addressing a serious concern. The collective power of the corporations, along with the local governments, can help in institutionalizing the practice in 1.4 million schools with an outreach of 120 million children. These numbers are not only big but critical to help in building healthy communities contributing to economic prosperity of the nation.
About the Author
Nirbhay K is a CSR professional and an IIT alumnus. Author can be reached @NirbhayK2.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely of the author in personal capacity and do not in any way represent views of any institution, entity or organization that the author may have been associated with.
Photo Credit: Livestrong.com