Global Handwashing Day 2020: Odisha Youth for “Hand Hygiene for All”

Bhubaneswar: Even as the importance of hand hygiene is being touted as the best defence against Covid-19, youths and students of various schools and colleges across the state reached out to over 6,000 people to raise awareness on this topic to mark the Global Handwashing Day today.
These youths, known as ‘Handwashing ambassadors’, are volunteers of #Youth4Water, a youth-led campaign on water, sanitation and hygiene being run by several organisations including Water Initiatives, Odisha (WIO), Patang, Gram Swaraj, Young India with support from UNICEF Odisha. The campaign aims at reaching out to each youth of the state by 2024 with the messages of water/river conservation; sanitation; hygiene and climate change awareness.
Every year, Global Handwashing Day is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap. This year’s theme, “Hand Hygiene for All” is much more relevant at a time when the need for safe water and hand hygiene for all has never ever been felt so badly by one and all, owing to the Covid pandemic.
While there is an urgent need for improvement in access to handwashing facilities, it also requires awareness and behaviour change interventions in the community. Volunteers of the campaign, apart from directly interacting with 1000 community members belonging to 11 villages in 5 districts, also involved over 5000 people through social media posts.
A webinar titled, “Role of Youths in Promotion of Hand Hygiene for All” was also organised where the youth shared their experience of working as handwashing ambassadors. They said, while maintaining hand hygiene is one of the most effective and simplest ways to stop spread of the virus, most of the communities where they tried to raise awareness lack basic facilities to practice handwashing frequently. While most of the communities lack piped water supply, others have to travel kilometres to fetch water for their daily needs. It is not possible for them to afford so much water for handwashing, they observed. They urged the government to provide piped water supply to each household to lessen the burden of diseases.
According to young volunteers, Latasha Das and Sananda Kumar, “We had decided to take up activities that would not only highlight the importance of handwashing for all but also the need for spreading awareness on preventive measures needed at individual and community levels in Covid response.”
A music video was produced by the #Youth4Water volunteers with help of leading cine and TV stars from Odisha. This video, titled, “Ame Jitiba..Hariba Corona..(We shall defeat Corona),” talks about the importance of handwashing among other preventive measures to stay safe from Corona, they said.
In three villages – Dumerjor, Kusmal and Jharsaram – of Nuapada district, young migrant labourers who had returned to their native places post Covid-induced lockdown, had launched a door-to-door campaign to educate people on importance of hand-washing to stay safe from various diseases including Covid.
Activities like demonstration of steps of hand-washing with soaps; discussions with community members on the importance of hand hygiene and need for water security through forest conservation; and hand-washing quizzes were organised in villages of Mayurbhanj, Puri, Sambalpur and Bargarh districts. The young volunteers also prepared awareness posters and banners.

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