Global Handwashing Day 2016 in Ethiopia: taking the message home

Global Handwashing Day 2016 in Ethiopia: taking the message home

Global Handwashing Day with the theme "Making handwashing a habit" was celebrated in six woredas of the Waghemira zone in Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia.

In the Sekota Zuria woreda - one of the implementation districts of the Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All programme in Ethiopia - teachers, students and the community gathered at the Azeba Comprehensive Elementary School. Sisay Abreha, mayor of Sekota City, stated that: “Most of the communicable diseases in our zone are caused by hygiene and sanitation problems, particularly with handwashing.” He added that students must take handwashing messages home, applying the practice themselves and influencing their peers to wash their hands with soap to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Getachew Belaineh, project leader for SSH4A in Ethiopia, also reminded the audience that handwashing with soap should not be a one-time act but practiced as a habit to prevent various diseases such as diarrhea, scabies and acute respiratory infections. “We should consider handwashing with soap and/or other alternatives as a self-prescribed vaccination to prevent ourselves from getting diseases related to unhygienic practices.” Preparing for and hosting these events and distributing behavioural change messages and information will contribute a lot towards encouraging others to apply the knowledge we have.

Mulugeta Tilahun, from our SSH4A implementing partner Organisation for Rehabilitation and Development for Amhara (ORDA), said this event is a forum for distributing context-specific behavioural change messages in the local language. The SSH4A programme has prepared and distributed materials to encourage the community to insist on handwashing with soap after defecation; before preparing and eating food, feeding children, breast feeding; and after cleaning children’s bottoms. People may have water shortage, but handwashing is a very important preventive act.

Bethlehem Mulugeta, a female 8th grade student who won the handwashing day Q&A competition, has attended similar events before. She said the events have helped her to expand her knowledge of various hygiene and sanitation behaviours and to apply handwashing practices. “I will never feed my little sister before washing my hands with water and soap. I will also advise people who feed my sister to follow my steps. When guests come to our home, I will show them how to wash their hands with soap”, said Bethlehem.

10,000 leaflets, 2,000 soap bars, 700 t-shirts, 700 caps, 140 banners, 125 dictionaries and a billboard have been distributed across seven woredas in the Waghemira zone, including one city administration, to support the successful celebration of Global Handwashing Day 2016 at the woreda and schools.

The SSH4A programme is implemented in nine countries across Africa and Asia. In Ethiopia, the programme promotes handwashing with soap at five critical times, household water treatment and storage, and proper utilisation and maintenance of toilets. Based on the findings of an assessment on knowledge, attitude and practice, we have developed a Behavioural Change Communication Strategy, which has been published and disseminated together with various printed and audio materials.