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Handwashing Keeps Children Happy, Healthy, Months After Cyclone Winston

Handwashing is so crucial especially after an emergency. Data has shown that children who practice handwashing are less likely to get sick often and live healthier, productive lives. Such a
03 May 2017 11:00
Handwashing Keeps Children Happy, Healthy, Months After Cyclone Winston

Handwashing is so crucial especially after an emergency.

Data has shown that children who practice handwashing are less likely to get sick often and live healthier, productive lives. Such a simple act but one that is sometimes rarely practised.

After Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji in 2016, schools like Dobuilevu Muslim School were almost completely destroyed. School buildings were damaged, debris was scattered everywhere, and classes took place in temporary tents supplied by UNICEF.

Head teacher of Dobuilevu Muslim in Rakiraki Shahim Husein said: “In the beginning, it was hard to ask the students to wash their hands but we kept on doing the group handwashing exercise every day.

“Slowly I saw the students were washing their hands without being told by the teachers, and surprisingly now, they are coming to me to ask for a soap if it’s not available at the handwashing station.”

The handwashing programme in Dobuilevu Muslim school began in 2014 with support from the Australian government funded Access to Quality Education Programme (AQEP) and the Fijian Teachers Association (FTA).

This programme was further strengthened by the introduction of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) 3 Star Approach following the Category Five Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016.

The three-star approach was developed to promote good hygiene behaviour or practices at the school level that protects children from liquid and solid waste material contamination.

Many cyclone-affected schools were not able to provide the minimum water, sanitation and hygiene criteria for their school children.

The cyclone had damaged toilet facilities, there was a lack of hygiene material supplies, and handwashing was not practiced in the school.

The WASH in Schools (WiNS) programme has three key interventions: provision of school WASH kits, WASH 3 Star Training (including handwashing), and infrastructure support.

This programme was aimed at elevating the school star rating after a disaster from no star to a minimum of one star.

The success of the WASH in schools programme has seen it move from being an emergency initiative to a mainstream programme activity.

“When school started again I continued to encourage the group handwashing exercise to make sure that the children stayed healthy. In the past, after this kind of disaster, many children would be absent because of sickness, but surprisingly, this time, no one got sick and missed school,” said Mr Hussein.

“We are fortunate that UNICEF’s WASH kits came on time to top up our soap supply.

“The children love the soap and the smell of it so they wash their hands more often,” he added.

 

 

 

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Source: UNICEF

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