Sharing the message: ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ on Global Handwashing Day

The simple things are the best solutions ways to stop the spread of the virus

Khin Mar Win
UNICEF Myanmar/2020/Khin Mar Win
28 October 2020

“Sometimes, the simple things are the best solutions,” said the Director of Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS) in Taunggyi, Shan State, Fr. Paul Nan, speaking about the vital importance of handwashing with soap during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the entire world is going through complex and challenging times due to Covid- 19, the message about one of the best, least complicated and most cost-effective, ways to stop the spread of the virus is increasingly being heard.

UNICEF, together with the Government of Myanmar and implementing partners including KMSS, has responded quickly to the current situation by installing more than 1800 handwashing stations equipped with soap at critical sites such as health centres, schools, wet markets, quarantine centres, orphanages, homes for the aged, youth centres, boarding houses, churches, monasteries and Covid-19 health check-points. These handwashing stations are serving an estimated 320,000 people across 52 townships in Shan and Kayah States.  

This effort has been supplemented by distribution of posters explaining the benefits of handwashing with soap, together with information on correct handwashing techniques, to 20,000 vulnerable households.

These efforts are bearing fruit. In all areas, rates of handwashing with soap are on the rise.

“Covid-19 is now driving people to wash their hands very often. In the past, people paid less attention to the importance of clean hands, despite various health education messages on this topic being conducted by Basic Health Staff, ” said Daw Patricia Ma Lay, a KMSS project officer.

“At the moment, I feel very well protected after washing my hands, step by step, with soap,” said a 45-year-old woman demonstrating her careful handwashing technique at a KMSS-installed station.

UNICEF Myanmar/2020/Khin Mar Win
Six-year-old Swan Lynn Htoon and eight-year-old May Suri Hein raising awareness on handwashing

Six-year-old Swan Lynn Htoon said, “I am obsessed with handwashing now. I can’t even count how many times a day I wash my hands with soap. I want my friends to be like me, so they will also be protected from COVID-19.” 

May Suri Hein, 8, told her mother: “Mom, I would like to be a handwashing champion in my school. When school re-opens, I will demonstrate proper handwashing with soap in front of my friends.”

This year, many organizations celebrated Global Handwashing Day in different ways, including with poster competitions, photo exhibitions, screening short films and delivering health talks to promote the long-term take-up of the practice. Celebrities were also involved to promote the practice on social media and TV.

An important message is that handwashing with soap is everyone’s responsibility and must be within the reach of every child, family, community, and front-line worker.

Duty bearers must make handwashing facilities easily accessible and individuals must adopt the practice to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe and healthy. 

UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Myanmar and implementing partners including KMSS to increase access to safely managed water, sanitation and handwashing services, especially for vulnerable families, schools and health facilities.