To increase the awareness of more than 25 million learners in the country about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives, the Department of Education (DepEd) and its partners lead all schools nationwide in celebrating the 2016 Global Handwashing Day (GHD) on October 15, 2016.
Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones acknowledged the power of children to influence others when it comes to proper hygiene and sanitation. "We consider them as the best agents in this initiative because they would share these lessons with their families and communities," Briones said.
Observed rates of handwashing with soap around the world are low, within zero % to 34% range. GHD aims to foster and support a global and local culture of handwashing with soap. It also aims to shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.
This year's theme "Make Handwashing a Habit!" emphasizes on the importance of handwashing with soap consistently at key times-after using the restroom and before contact with food.
Cross-country evidence shows that handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective interventions to minimize disease-causing bacteria and prevent diarrheal deaths and disease.
Diarrheal disease is considered the second most common cause of child mortality worldwide-causing the death of over 1.5 million children under five years old each year. Based on research, this can be reduced by more than 40% through habitual handwashing with soap.
About 6% of children below 5 years old have symptoms of Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI), which can be reduced by around 23% through handwashing with soap. During the 2006 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), handwashing with soap more than 10 times a day cut the spread of the respiratory virus by 55%.
Moreover, three out of 10 Filipino children under 10 years old are stunted which, aside from poor nutrition, is due to poor sanitation and hand hygiene. Stunting is an indicator of retarded mental and physical development.
Handwashing with soap also plays a role in reducing absenteeism among primary school children. In China, promotion and distribution of soap in primary schools resulted in 54% fewer days of absence among students compared to schools without such intervention.
In the Philippines, the DepEd combats various child health-related concerns through its Essential Health Care Program (EHCP), which includes daily group handwashing with soap, tooth brushing with fluoride, and bi-annual deworming. These efforts resulted to 27% reduction in absenteeism, 20% reduction in malnutrition, 40% reduction in oral infection, and 47% reduction in heavy intestinal worm infestation.
The concept of the daily group handwashing with soap was first implemented in the Philippines, and was later on adapted as a core component of the global Three Star Approach for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools program.
This Three Star Approach is designed to improve the effectiveness of hygiene behavior change programs. It ensures that healthy habits are taught, practiced, and integrated into daily school routines. It also helps schools meet the essential criteria for a healthy and protective learning environment for children.
In the Three Star Approach, schools are encouraged to take simple steps to make sure that all students wash their hands with soap, have access to drinking water, and are provided with clean, gender-segregated and child-friendly toilets at school every day.
Initiated by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, the Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day being celebrated by various agencies and offices such as the DepEd, Department of Health (DOH), UNICEF, German Development Cooperation (GIZ), Save the Children, International Medical Corps, Procter and Gamble, Maynilad, Manila Water, Local Government Units (LGUs), and other stakeholders.
This effort is pursuant to the DepEd Memorandum No. 172, s. 2016 or the 2016 Global Handwashing Day Celebration which is available online at http://www.deped.gov.ph/memos/dm-172-s-2016.
Source: Philippine Information Agency