Hands often act as vectors that carry pathogens from person to person through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces and foods. Together, soap and water form a formidable ally in combatting a host of illnesses. Isolation and safe disposal of feces and having adequate amounts of clean water are essential to disease prevention, but washing hands with soap is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to stop the transmission of disease agents and thus prevent diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections.
Research shows that children living in households that promote hand washing with water and soap had half the diarrheal rates of children living in control neighborhoods (JAMA, June 2, 2004 – Vol. 291, No. 21). Promoted on a wide enough scale, hand washing with soap can be thought of as a “do-it-yourself” disease prevention method because it is easy, effective, and affordable.
In 2008, the first Global Handwashing Day mobilized 120 million children in 73 countries across five continents to wash their hands with soap. Since then, every year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day is celebrated all over the world – and for sure in Shirati, Tanzania. For Maji Safi Group, this day is an opportune time to teach children and community members about proper WASH behaviors and a good reason to host a field day for children.
This year, we celebrated Siku ya Kunawa Duniani (Global Handwashing Day in Swahili) in Shirati in a variety of ways. In the morning, Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) visited three governmental primary schools to teach 1,200 children about the eight steps of proper hand washing, sing Maji Safi Group songs, and test the children’s knowledge about clean and safe water and hand washing.
In the afternoon, we held a Rorya FM radio show that reached an estimated 3,500 people in the greater area (Rorya District). During this one-hour show, the listeners were invited to ask questions about hand washing, hygiene, clean water, and anything related to WASH. Two Maji Safi Group CHWs answered all the questions and gave advice to the callers. Before the show, some of the Maji Safi Group songs were recorded and then played during the radio show.
In the afternoon, the community was invited to celebrate the day at Maji Safi Group’s office.
The children – 285 or so – were taught the proper methods and critical times for hand washing, played games, built with Legos (generously donated by the Lego Foundation, Denmark), got their faces painted by the Community Health Workers, created hats and crowns of paper, and drew pictures of their hands.
Maji Safi Group’s Singing & Dance Group performed dances and sang the Maji Safi Group songs, and the children enjoyed a small snack.
We all had a great, very constructive and fun-filled day. A huge THANK YOU to all our donors who support Maji Safi Group, so we can continue to do this important work in the community of Shirati, Tanzania.