Clean hands, good health

Washing your hands with soap to stay healthy

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
Washing hands with soap has become my new habit for Luong Gia Huy in An Giang
UNICEF Viet Nam\Truong Viet Hung
21 February 2019

“Washing hands with soap has become my new habit”, Luong Gia Huy proudly told us during our visit to his family in An Giang province. The positive words of a 10-year-old boy about his new hygiene and sanitation practice caught my immediate attention.

Born in 2008, Luong Gia Huy just completed 4th grade at Vinh Hau Primary School in May 2018, where he attended the first triggering session of the School Led Total Sanitation (SLTS). Implemented in An Giang province since 2010 with the support from UNICEF, the School Led Total Sanitation focuses on building a positive attitude among children to sustain hygiene and sanitation behaviour among children. If children are convinced about the importance of washing their hands with soap, we can count on them to also encourage their families and communities to take up this healthy habit. For nearly a decade, this initiative has brought about positive changes among school children like Luong Gia Huy.

Hand washing is a cost-effective way of preventing communicable diseases such as respiratory and diarrhoea infections. However, hand washing rates are low in Viet Nam. A World Bank study found only 13 per cent of the population wash their hands with soap at “key-moments” (e.g. after going to the toilet, after cleaning the bottom of a child, before feeding a child or before eating) and this rate is even lower among poor households and ethnic minorities.

“Washing hands with soap has become my new habit”, Luong Gia Huy,10-year-old boy from An Giang province.

“Washing hands with soap has become my new habit”, Luong Gia Huy proudly shared
UNICEF Viet Nam\Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong

Like many other children in his commune, Huy never used soap in the past. He just simply washed his hands with water when he saw dirt in his hands. Until one day in March 2018, Huy learned at his school how human feces can go into your mouth through dirty hands. Huy recalls some district health workers and commune health workers visiting his school for a triggering session and sharing with them how people might eat their own or others’ feces accidently by touching food with dirty hands. This session was part of the School Led Total Sanitation project. The triggering session also helped Huy learn more about when to wash hands with soap and how to do it properly. Moreover, his family has just built a new latrine with a handwashing facility which has enabled Huy to take up the new habit and always washes his hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet.

Huy has also seen how his health has improved since he started to wash his hands properly. Huy shared that he used to have diarrhea regularly however since he started washing hands with soap, he has not had diarrhea once. Huy realized that a very simple habit of hand washing with soap can keep him healthy and he can play more with his friends. From his own positive experience, he has inspired and taught other members of his family and people around him to do the same to promote good hygiene and sanitation practices and better health.