KABL (Pajhwok): Government and UNICEF officials and partners joined in celebrating the annual Global Handwashing Day in Kabul on Thursday.
At a gathering marking the day at Sardar Kabuli High School here, they emphasised on the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective, simple and affordable way to prevent disease and save lives.
This year the theme of Global Handwashing Day — Hand Hygiene for All — is more than just a day. It is a call to action to make hand hygiene a reality for all.
The current COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission, according to a joint statement.
“The theme reminds us of the need to take immediate action on hand hygiene across all public and private settings to respond and control the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
It added 5.5 million children in Afghanistan had no ready access to a place to wash their hands, making it imperative to place it at the centre of children’s development.
In Kabul, the main advocacy event was held in “Sardar Kabuli High School” where officials from the ministries of education, rural rehabilitation & development and UNICEF joined hands with students to celebrate Global Handwashing Day (GHWD).
Ninety percent of school lack access to hand washing stations with water and soap, 34% schools lack safe drinking water and 50% schools lack access to sanitary toilets.
“We should make sure that every child has access to water, sanitation & hygiene facilities in schools by 2030,” said the deputy minister of education.
Dr. Ibrahim Shinwari added: “With the support received from UNICEF, we provided safe drinking water and sanitary toilets to 150 schools and hand washing facilities in 1400 schools only in 2020.”
A comprehensive guideline for control of COVID 19 for school principals and teachers has been developed. WASH in school standards, finalised in coordination with UNICEF and MRRD would be introduced soon.
Public Health Department representative Dr. Shafiqullah Hemat said in 2019, 1.5 million cases of diarrhea were reported in children under five years of age.
Handwashing with soap could reduce the incidence of diarrhea in these settings by nearly half, he said, urging health workers, religious scholars, teachers, students and scholars to join hands to make handwashing with soap a critical way to ensure health for all.
Eng. Ghulam Qader, director of the rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene programme at MRRD, said the ministry had demonstrated its commitment to providing clean water and sanitation facilities to all villagers by 2030.
“All rural areas will be free of open defecation and all households will have safe toilets by 2030” promised UNICEF deputy representative Mustapha Ben Messaoud.
He added that over 5.5 million children still did not have access to basic handwashing with soap in schools in Afghanistan. UNICEF is supporting the government in its efforts to keep children and families safe.
He underlined the need to place hand hygiene at the heart of children’s development. “Let us build a new normal…where hand hygiene is practiced in all our communities, schools and health centers.”
A student from Alokhil School, Saima, said: “We 1900 girls studying in this school in Kabul don’t have access to WASH facilities and end up going back to our homes to use these facilities.”
This led to a lesser number of girls staying back in classrooms, which affects their education, self-esteem and health condition.
Hands are the leading carriers of germs that cause diarrhea and respiratory infections like pneumonia. Handwashing at critical times – such as before a meal or after using the toilet – stops the spread of disease-causing germs.
Consistent handwashing with soap reduces the incidence of diarrhea by nearly half and respiratory infections by 25% among children under 5.