Published on: 08/11/2022
In Ethiopia, 92% of the population, 42% of health care institutions, 50.7% of primary schools, and 35.7% of secondary schools lack access to basic handwashing facilities with a water supply and soap (JMP and, 2019; ESAA, 2020/21). This has resulted in the death of 70,000 children under five each year as a result of diarrhoeal diseases. To tackle this problem, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Water and Energy, and partner organisations have developed the national hand hygiene roadmap and a protocol for food and personal hygiene for school feeding. Both documents were launched on November 4, 2022.
Dr. Dereje Duguma, State minister of the Ministry of Health, stated in his keynote speech at the launching event that the national hand hygiene roadmap is intended to supplement existing hand hygiene efforts and COVID-19 response interventions by designing game-changing strategic actions. He calls on all stakeholders to use the roadmap to achieve universal access to hand washing facilities and services. According to Dr. Dereje, the Ministry of Health is working closely with the Ministries of Education, Water and Energy to incorporate a section about hand hygiene into the education curriculum, to build more handwashing facilities in schools, and to supplement the country's successful implementation of school feeding.
School WASH is one of the seven cross-cutting priorities in Ethiopia's Education Sector Development Plan V. According to Dr. Fanta Mandefro, State minister of the Ministry of Education, access to handwashing facilities in schools can improve students' and teachers' health, attendance, and welfare, as well as contribute to better education outcomes. However, every year, students skip school due to water-related illnesses, which are frequently transmitted in schools. As a result, the Hand Hygiene Road Map and the food for personal hygiene guideline for school feeding programmes will foster an environment in which many stakeholders can work together to improve handwashing rates in schools and achieve improved educational outcomes. For a country that loses 70,000 children under five every year and, is focused on preventive health care, improving hand hygiene is a serious matter that needs everybody’s engagement.
The "H is for Handwashing” initiative was also inaugurated as part of the launching ceremony, and an agreement for its execution was signed by Unilever and the Ministries of Health, and Education. This is an endeavour into incorporate teaching about handwashing in the curriculum. And also to link the letter “H” to handwashing rather than hat or any other object starting with h.