February 1, 2016
Hello! My name is Bijan Manavizadeh and I am excited to be the new Program Officer with the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing. I believe that global health promotion, including hygiene and sanitation, is an important function of sustainable development and poverty alleviation. I care about handwashing because, when practiced properly at key times, it is an effective, inexpensive, and accessible vaccine that can help prevent the spread of illness and neglected tropical diseases.
While I have been aware of the importance of good handwashing for health, it was not until my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Benin that I witnessed firsthand the necessity of sanitation and hygiene practices, especially handwashing with soap to not only prevent illness, but also to limit morbidity and mortality. Supporting child and maternal health efforts, I assisted the local health center in my village in northern Benin for two years and then partnered with PSI-Benin in the capital on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related projects, working to raise awareness about the importance of sanitation and hygiene using behavior change mechanisms.
During my time in Benin, I saw that good hygiene and sanitation practices were not always a high priority, nor were the benefits well understood. I also observed how good hygiene is necessary for community-wide health. For instance, even if someone washes their hand before eating, they might still be at risk of illness if the person preparing their food practiced poor hygiene. This is why I believe that for the full impact of WASH interventions to be realized, the whole community must adopt proper hygiene and sanitation practices.
It was also clear that while people were generally concerned with treating diarrheal diseases, there was a substantial lack of understanding about the role that hygiene and sanitation can play in stopping and the transmission of communicable diseases. This knowledge gap was often compounded by inadequate infrastructure and a lack of entrepreneurs and other market actors participating in the creation and promotion of sanitation and hygiene products and services.
I am looking forward to using what I have learned during these past experiences to help the PPPHW develop and promote ideas, tools, resources, and effective solutions that are innovative, sustainable, and measurable. I am excited to work with a team that strives to help people around the world tackle issues relating to hygiene, so that all people can lead healthier, happier, and more productive lives.
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