Did you know that Saturday October the 15th is Global Handwashing Day? A day devoted to spreading awareness about handwashing. Handwashing is a process you probably never even question, you just do it. But did you know that the risk of newborn deaths is reduced by 44% if mothers regularly wash their hands? And that diarrhea is the second greatest cause of death for children under five? With regular handwashing, so many of these deaths could be avoided.
As part of SeeBeyondBorders’ commitment to improving education and encouraging long-term behavioral change in Cambodia, health programs are carried out in eight schools across four districts. One of the primary activities carried out in our ‘Getting to School’ program is handwashing. This activity is essential in improving the health standards of communities and reducing the incidence of preventable diseases that so often keep kids out of school.
Access to clean water and soap is not widespread in Cambodia, and awareness of good health and hygiene practices, including how to wash your hands properly, remains low. Since early 2013, SeeBeyondBorders has been working with Kok Dong primary school to improve their facilities so that they don’t have to make a 300-meter trip to an unsanitary pond. We have also held health workshops with parents and members of the local community, demonstrating how to wash hands thoroughly to avoid spreading illnesses. Alongside demonstrating how to clean your teeth and providing soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, these workshops aim to instil good practices for both students and their families.
Handwashing has contributed to an increase in average attendance rates in the schools where we run programs from 91% in 2015 to 93% in 2016. By encouraging hand washing at home and at school, overall health is improved, enabling children to regularly attend class and substantially reducing their risk of getting sick. Handwashing enables better education.
The 2016 theme is ‘Make Handwashing a Habit’. Whilst the process is simple, behavioral change is a lengthy process.
Raising awareness is not limited to the 15th of October and can be done throughout the year. SeeBeyondBorders commits to raising awareness all year around by visiting schools and carrying out these health workshops. If you would like to support our work please donate so we can continue to reach more children in communities across Cambodia.