A true handwashing champion

Fish hawker Mary has taken upon herself to be handwashing promoter number one in the Gudele market

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A woman selling fish in the market
04 May 2020


"Hey, you didn't wash your hands, you need to go back and put on soap and water. Scrub for at least 20 seconds."

Mary Juan's fish stall is just a few meters from the newly installed handwashing station in the Gudele market in the capital Juba. She is making sure no one can pass without putting soap and water on their hands.

"I've been listening to the hygiene promoters here, people like Rose. I've learned how you should do it," Mary says.


A lady is standing next to a handwashing station
Hygiene promoter Rose Wilson is monitoring the use of the handwashing station.


Hygiene promoter Rose Wilson is encouraging people passing to stop and wash their hands. She is also showing people how to do correct handwashing, ensuring every part of the hand is covered. Rose is also trying to keep tabs of how many people are using the handwashing station and educating people on the Coronavirus disease.

"Some people refuse to wash their hands, saying it is not necessary. They are not used to it. So, I'm thankful for people like Mary helping. Maybe she should take over my job," Rose chuckles. 


A woman is washing hands
A woman is washing her hands in the handwashing station in Gudele market in Juba


UNICEF and partners have put up 50 handwashing stations like these in congested and frequently visited areas in Juba, such as markets and police stations. Every handwashing station has information about the coronavirus, soap and water tank containing 500 litres of water. At every site, there is a hygiene promoter raising awareness on the importance of handwashing, not only as a COVID-19 preventive measure, but also to prevent other communicable diseases.


A woman looking at someone washing their hands
Mary is paying attention to the handwashing techniques to ensure it is done properly


Mary spends more time promoting handwashing than promoting the smoked fish in her stall. 

"Why are you so engaged is this?" 

"You see, all the people around here are in my body, I feel for them and I love them. That is why I want to help everyone to stay safe."


A woman smiling
Mary Juan


Engaged members of communities is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, therefore, we need more people like Mary throughout the country. Together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF is co-leading the COVID-19 response in South Sudan, related to infection prevention and control (IPC) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

UNICEF's COVID-19 response in South Sudan is conducted in partnership with the World Bank. UNICEF South Sudan would also like to thank UKAid and USAID for their contributions to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response.