National Hand Washing Campaign Policy

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Malawi Government
The Government of Malawi through the Ministries of Health, and Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development is implementing a sanitation and hygiene promotion programme which is aimed at reducing water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases. The hygiene promotion component is advancing three inter-related and inter-connected domains: hand-washing with soap (HWWS); safe disposal of faeces; and safe storage and use of drinking water. While research shows that any one of these domain can reduce diarrhoeal disease in under the age of five by 32% to 45% (Curtis, et. Al., “Saving Lives”, 2004), research has also shown that advocating the use of a combination of these domains increases the likelihood of behaviour change and practices (EHP II, “Changing Hygiene Behaviours”, 2002) However, the idea of the hand washing campaign is as a result of an assessment of benefits of hand washing with soap in reducing various hygiene related diseases. Hand washing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia, which together account for about 3.5 million child deaths annually. Hand washing with soap also reduces the incidence of skin diseases; eye infections such as trachoma; and intestinal worms, especially ascariasis and trichuriasis and enteric viruses. Despite having all these success stories about hand washing with soap, not much is being done in reinforcing the scaling up of this intervention. Evidence of actual hand washing practice is scanty but studies in rural areas suggest that the actual practice of HWWS at critical times is between 3 – 18% but more likely on the low end of this scale. Currently, efforts to promote hygiene and hand washing with soap in particular, have not been sufficient enough to bring about mass behaviour change on the scale that is needed. The proposal for the National Hand Washing Campaign has therefore been developed with an aim of transforming the piecemeal and ad hoc efforts into a single well coordinated comprehensive intervention. The campaign will complement the global efforts of promoting hand washing with soap whereby Global Hand Washing Day (GHWD) was already declared on every 15th October. The campaign will assist to transform hand washing practice from being a single day’s activity into a routine, all year round behaviour thereby forming people’s habits. The campaign is in line with the national goal of ensuring that all people in Malawi practice safe hygiene as outlined in the Health Sector Strategic Plan (2011 – 2016) and the National Sanitation Policy. The development of the proposal was rigorous, involving all relevant stakeholders and structures that oversee implementation of hygiene promotion activities. These include the National Sanitation and Hygiene Coordinating Committee, technical working group on sanitation and hygiene and government & Non Governmental Organizations through a consultative workshop. The proposal is therefore being presented to development partners and donors for the purpose of soliciting funds and other contributions towards implementing the proposed 3 activities that have been planned to run for one full year with an objective of accelerating the adoption of hand washing with soap behaviour in Malawi especially among the vulnerable groups (the poor, mothers & caregivers, and young children).
Preventive Health Services