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Ensuring Hand Hygiene Beyond The COVID-19 Response

Global Handwashing Day

Photo credit: WaterAid / James Kiyimba

In commemoration of the Global Handwashing Day (GHD) 2020, the focus remains on improving hand hygiene while ensuring safe water and sanitation services are made available and accessible for all. This year’s theme aligns with the new Hand Hygiene for All Initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Handwashing is one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, according to the UN, in sub-Saharan Africa, 75% of the population (767 million people) lack basic handwashing facilities.

To date, according to the African Ministers’ Council on Water’s (AMCOW) Ngor Declaration baseline report published in 2019, only 14 countries across Africa have reported making progress on Ngor Commitment 1 : focus on the poorest, most marginalized and unserved and progressively eliminating inequalities in the access and use regarding hygiene and sanitation, and only 1 country has fully funded sanitation and hygiene plans at the sub-national level.

Global Handwashing Day
Photo credit: WaterAid / James Kiyimba

“Today, with the coronavirus pandemic at hand, it is time to reflect on the effectiveness of our water, sanitation and hygiene policies, strategies and plans; on the efficiency of our service delivery mechanisms, and resolve to increase investment to the sector so as to ensure access to clean water, safely managed sanitation and hygiene services to all, not to some. We should leave no one behind,” said Dr Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary of AMCOW.

AMCOW has been working to improve the prioritization of water and sanitation in Africa. The Council is currently coordinating the development of the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines (ASPG) which will provide the necessary guidance to enable African countries to develop WASH policies that can provide the necessary foundation for improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services to all and, as a result, enable health systems to improve Africa’s resilience to pandemics like the COVID-19

Health for All cannot be achieved without access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All. African Governments and donors must significantly and urgently increase financial resources allocated to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector and ensure that game changing policies and strategies are developed and implemented; that actions targeting the most marginalised and vulnerable people are identified and taken among priorities. 

This year’s Global Handwashing Day calls on countries to start planning for the future as they continue to strengthen their COVID-19 response and accelerate their pace to full recovery. A move that will reduce their vulnerability to new outbreaks and help them control current diarrheal and respiratory diseases.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of AMCOW.

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