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Global Handwashing Day High-Level Commitments Event

October 20, 2021

On 15th October, Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, and the Global Handwashing Partnership hosted a high-level event to launch the first State of the World’s Hand Hygiene report and share how governments are driving efforts to scale up hand hygiene. The event featured participation from senior leadership around the world and strong cross-sectoral representation.

Participants were welcomed by Ann Thomas, Senior Advisor and Sanitation and Hygiene Global Lead at UNICEF. In her opening remarks, Kelly Ann Naylor, Director of WASH for UNICEF, remarked on the strong progress made in the last 12 months at country level, achieved in particular through strong cross-sectoral collaboration. Ms. Naylor officially launched the State of the World’s Hand Hygiene report, which brings together existing data and new insights to capture where the world stands with regards to hand hygiene, both the present opportunity and the urgent priorities for action going forward. Ms. Naylor highlighted in particular the launch within the report of a new global estimate – less than US$1 per person per year – for achieving domestic hand hygiene for all in the 46 least developed countries of the world, with huge returns on investment, and flagged the inspiring examples of country efforts across five global accelerators.

A keynote for the event was given by Wendy Morton, Minister for Europe and Americas at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). Ms. Morton pointed to the multiple examples of change captured in the State of the World’s Hand Hygiene report and the videoed commitments shown at the event as indicators of an overwhelmingly positive response to the urgent call to action issued at the UN high-level event to mark Global Handwashing Day in 2020. She noted the UK government’s contribution to this global movement, in particular through the Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition, a partnership of governments, academics, private sector, and NGOS that has come together over the last 18 months.

A panel of government representatives followed, chaired by Clarissa Brocklehurst, a long-time WASH specialist and chief editor of the State of the World’s Hand Hygiene report. Arun Baroka, Additional Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation of the Government of India, shared highlights of the soon-to-be-released hand hygiene roadmap for India, flagging substantial investment, in particular in piped household water supply, and strong inter-ministerial coordination as key drivers of success. Amna Helmi, Deputy Director, Environmental Hygiene and the Environment Protection Department, Ministry of Health, Government of Tunisia, highlighted the critical role of robust risk assessments, target setting and strategic planning and delivery in the country’s successful WASH in health care facilities efforts. For her part, Licenciada Yolanda Cruz, Occupational Health, Ministry of Work, Government of Guatemala, highlighted the power of regulation in motivating sustainable change. Ms. Cruz shared recent government regulation in Guatemala requiring employers to provide handwashing facilities in the workplace. All panellists stressed the critical importance of public financing and government responsibility for ensuring access to products and services, including water supply, cross-sectoral integration, and coordination, to drive forward progress.

To bring existing country efforts to life, Dr. Saima Shafique, the government of Pakistan’s Manager WASH Strategic Planning Unit, Ministry of Climate Change, shared their experience on developing a national hand hygiene roadmap. She highlighted how hand hygiene is integrated into Pakistan’s Clean Green Pakistan Movement, which gives it an institutional home. The roadmap features strategic actions on political will, policies and strategies, institutional arrangements, financing, monitoring and evaluation, capacity development, inclusive programming, and behavior change.

A series of videoed government and corporate commitments on hand hygiene were shown throughout the event. These were introduced by Tim Wainwright, CEO of WaterAid, who shared the extensive work WaterAid has done on hand hygiene and the organization’s commitment to the issue. Dr. Ana Paula Cardoso, Director of Environmental Health, Ministry of Health, Government of Mozambique, reflected on the strong commitments made, noting the critical importance of strong leadership in driving progress on such a cross-cutting issue as hygiene and flagging Government of Mozambique plans to launch a national roadmap in 2022.

The event was closed by Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department for Environment, Climate Change and Health in the World Health Organization. Dr. Neira pointed to the strong leadership shown by so many country governments and other agencies during and beyond the event as a heartening reminder that, while the challenge ahead is still phenomenal, the global movement for hand hygiene continues to build. She called on country governments and the agencies that support them to join this movement, seizing this opportunity to make the systemic changes needed to sustain and build upon the gains we’ve seen in the last 18 months, so that we are better prepared next time, so that everyone, everywhere has the means to wash their hands to protect themselves and others.

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Category: Community Forum

Category: GHD Events

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