Bhubaneswar: On the occasion of Global Handwashing Day on Thursday, Minister of ST&SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare, Jagannath Saraka, launched a campaign for SSD school students to promote hand hygiene and awareness.
The campaign was launched during a webinar jointly organised by the ST&SC Department and UNICEF. Government officials, partner agencies, grassroot workers, youth activists among others participated in the webinar.
Speakers from all over emphasized the importance and need for minimal touch handwashing stations especially at the time of COVID-19 at schools and other public institutions.
Every year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is observed as a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap, and triggering lasting change from the policy-level to community-driven action since 2008.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission. It provides a reminder that a seemingly simple act as washing hands with soap is an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and ensure better health outcomes overall.
This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is Hand Hygiene for All, calling for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene now and for the future.
The webinar focussed on the need to ensure everyone, particularly those in rural areas and in schools, had access to hand hygiene facilities including handwashing facilities, regular water supply, soap and alcohol-based hand rub. In addition, the webinar also stressed on encouraging behaviour change to adopt healthy hygiene practices and called for strengthened coordination, regular and financing for water and sanitation hygiene facilities and services.
More than 1,200 people participated from different districts including district welfare officers, Project administrator integrated tribal development agency, Headmaster of SSD schools, NGO Partners, SC&ST Development Department & UNICEF.
Saraka also inaugurated a minimal hand touch handwashing station at the premises of the Rayagada Collectorate and stressed on the importance of handwashing in our daily lives. He said minimal hand touch handwashing facilities would be set up in all schools and hostels of Odisha run by ST&SC department
Principal Secretary of ST & SC Development Department, Ranjana Chopra, in her keynote addressed the importance of health, hygiene, and sanitation for human development.
In her talk she mentioned food supplements, alone cannot overcome the issue of malnutrition from Odisha, it is very important to have basic hygiene and sanitation facilities to reduce malnutrition in the state.
The department is currently working on a mission, to have ISO certification on quality WASH facilities in the ST/SC hostels, because a simple act of handwashing will reduce morbidity.
She said, “We should also realize the importance of multi-lateral organizations like UNICEF, who support with their technical and domain knowledge and together we aim to bring lasting change. The basic handwashing practice should now be adopted as a part of our lifestyle.”
Director of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Panchayati Raj & Drinking Water Department, B. Parmeshwaran, talked on Swachch Bharat Mission-2 and Jal Jeevan Mission and the role of Panchayati Raj Institutions for ensuring access to Water and Sanitation in institutions and households.
He said, “There is a need for continued investment in behaviour change. Schools can play an important role to propagate messages relating to sanitation and hygiene.”
Parmeshwaran encouraged schools to pioneer in promoting Waste Management practices, make campuses plastic-free. And further to construct soak pits for liquid waste management and compost pit for solid waste management in all schools. He also highlighted how the government is working for piped water supply schemes for villages to ensure household tap water supply.
Chief of UNICEF Odisha Field Office, Monika Nielson, said, “Handwashing with soap is the first line of defence to avoid spread of infections and the COVID 19 situation has highlighted this for us again. We need to work closely with all stakeholders, communities and civil society organisations to build hygiene as an agenda for all. Today is global handwashing day, however, everyday should be handwashing day.”
Member of UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on climate change, Archana Soreng, said, “There is a lot of traditional knowledge and wisdom related to climate conservation. Tribal communities often follow practice that help them harvest water and boost agriculture. We need to understand, document and promote such traditional knowledge and practices. It is important that the youth are aware of both the modern as well as the traditional ways of preserving our environment.”
During this month-long campaign, different activities or events would be held at village/panchayat, Block/ District, and state-level from October 15 (Global Handwashing Day) to November 19 (World Toilet Day).
Various programs such as software activities, digital campaigns, demonstrations of the right way of washing hands, slogan writing on walls, quizzes, literary competition, fancy dress contests are to spread the importance of handwashing among students/ villagers. Minimal hand touch handwashing stations will also be set up in schools.