Hand Hygiene in preventing the spread of COVID 19

The Global Hand Wash Day 2020 is a very unique and special day for The Reaching the Unreached  Project (RTU) implemented by Solidaridad Network Asia (SNA) partnering with Institute of Social  Development (ISD) and Nucleus Foundation (NF).

The project interventions in hygiene had a great impact  on re opening of schools and as a Life Saver in prventing the spread of COVID 19 within Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla and Monaragala Districts of Sri Lanka. Literally the RTU project has been one of the most  pro-active, timely and effective initiatives in Sri Lanka which has considerably changed the behavior

practices among school students and communities in the area of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in the remote areas in the Central and Uva Provinces. The project in its third year has reached a total of

23,037 persons comprising of 41% males and 59% females through 389 Hand Washing and Hygiene  Promotion programs. These initiatives of the RTU project would have no doubt contributed towards Sri Lanka being ranked as the 2nd best country globally to successfully combat the COIVD 19 pandemic.

Out of the several initiatives planned to reach the project objectives, one main initiative was to sensitize  the estate and surrounding village communities on Safe Sanitation and Water practices through Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Activities which was carried out by the two Partners Organizations. One of these activities that came under this SBCC component was given great emphasis in the first two years of the project; it was the Importance of ‘Proper Hand Washing’. The project deployed the local functionaries such as Public Health Inspectors (PHIs), Public Health Mid-wife (PHM) to facilitate the programs.

By the end of the 2nd Year the RTU project had proactively reached to create a deep behavior change among the communities coming under the RTU project. While it was not new knowledge that proper handwashing leads to better health outcomes, the practice of it has been sub optimal, until COVID 19 pandemic brought back the focus on importance of handwashing with soap. It is now accepted without doubt that if we are to prevent future out-breaks from becoming Global Pandemics then one has to begin with the fundamental building blocks of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene to improve and sustain Public Health.

The overall objective of the RTU project is also to improve the health and nutrition status of marginalized and underserved communities through WASH initiatives. In this context the Global Handwashing Day 2020 becomes a very special and unique for Solidaridad Network Asia and its partner organizations as the project beneficiaries have been in the forefront of practicing personal Hygiene and have been exposed to the importance and the proper methods of Hand Washing.

RTU project is funded by the European Union (EU) under the Integrated Rural Development (IRD) program. The RTU Project is in it’s 3rd successful year and will reach out to the most remotest Schools, Estates and surrounding Villages to provide safe and adequate water by upgrading exisiting rural water systems. These water sytems are upgraded with the colloboration of the Provincial Council, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, the Commissioner of Local Government and the Department of National Community Water Supply (DNCWS). Solidaridad Network Asia (SNA) has earmarked to improve 100 or more Rural Water Systems in Estates and Communities by the end of the project.