Ghana joined the bandwagon in 2006 and began marking the day with the rest of the world in 2008.
In a statement issued to mark the day, the National Coordinator for the event in Ghana, Theodora Adomako-Adjei says the practice of handwashing with soap has become one of the international hygiene agenda, as a result of which the United Nations General Assembly has designated October 15 as the Global Handwashing Day.
She said this is intended to echo and reinforce its call for improved hygiene practices, adding, “The guiding vision of Global Handwashing Day is a local and global culture of handwashing with soap.”
Theodora Adomako-Adjei, who is also the Regional Extension Services Specialist for Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Greater Accra Region, lamented that despite the lifesaving potential of handwashing with soap, which is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections, handwashing with soap is seldom practiced and not always easy to promote.
“Handwashing with soap has been observed as not being one of the cherished hygiene practices in Ghana. It is common to find people using their hands unhygienically (cleaning of the bottom after using the toilet, picking of nose, cleaning ears, scratching itchy parts of the body, rubbing eyes, cleaning mucus from nose, coughing and sneezing in the hands, scratching hair, handling money, touching contaminated surfaces among others) but will go ahead to use the same contaminated hands to eat and serve others with food,” she stated.
She implored all Ghanaians, as the world marks the Handwashing Day today, to think about what they use their hands to do, think about what they have touched today and how many people have touched those things already today, as the motivation to always want to wash their hands with soap and water.
“Community Water and Sanitation Agency in collaboration with UNICEF and other partners are entreating all Ghanaians to make handwashing with soap at critical times the accepted and practiced norm in Ghana,” Theodora Adomako-Adjei said.
She declared that as hands pick germs we cannot see, washing hands with water alone is not enough and that handwashing with soap can prevent diseases like cholera, pandemic flu that kills millions of children every year, stating that the critical moments for handwashing with soap are after using the toilet or cleaning a child’s bottom and before handling food (before cooking, serving food or eating).
The National Coordinator for Global Handwashing Day thus stressed that “Handwashing with soap is the single most cost effective intervention” urging “For Truly Clean Hands Always Wash With Soap.”
A Monitoring and Evaluation Baseline carried out in 2003 by a market research company –
Research International (RI) recorded extremely low rates of handwashing with soap, with only 2.7% of mothers observed to wash their hands with soap after defecation, while 32% washed their hands with water alone.
According to the research only 2.3% mothers washed their hands with water after disposing of a child’s faeces, while 63% did not wash their hands at all.
The same research stated that in the schools, only 6.2% of children were observed to wash their hands with soap after defecation, while over 72% did not wash their hands at all.
Further, of nearly 1000 children observed, only five (5) washed their hands with soap before eating, though 43% did wash their hands with water alone.
The coalition behind the handwashing is a global alliance of public and private partners, who together form the Public-Private partnership for Handwashing, an international initiative to promote handwashing with soap, to reduce diarrhoea in developing countries and implement large-scale handwashing interventions.
This it hopes to do, by combining the expertise and resources of the soap industry with the facilities and resources of governments.
By Edmund Smith-Asante