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Ghana must prioritize resource allocation to deepen handwashing culture beyond COVID-19 : stakeholders urge

Ghana must deepen handwashing culture in the country beyond COVID-19 preventionGhana needs to prioritise the allocation of resources in Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector to deepen handwashing culture in the country beyond COVID-19 prevention, some stakeholders have urged.

The Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) and global charity WaterAid said in separate statements to mark the Global Handwashing Day that the authorities needed to make finances and other required resources available promptly “to accelerate handwashing for all.”

“The unprecedented nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the critical role that hand hygiene plays in disease transmission. Handwashing with soap must be prioritized now and in the future to fight against the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic,” CONIWAS said.

The coalition underscored the need to sustain the gains made in handwashing practice during the pandemic, expressing the worry that as COVID-19 “begins to decline, coupled with other preventive measures including the COVID 19 vaccinations, the practice of handwashing is beginning to go down.”

“The celebration of the Global Hand Washing Day reminds us that hand hygiene is still one of the safest ways to protect ourselves against many diseases, including the Corona Virus,” added CONIWAS, the largest aggregation of WASH sector stakeholders in Ghana.

The statement also reminded the authorities that “there are still other factors that hinder handwashing practice, apart from human behavior, and among these is the unavailability of clean water for hand hygiene practice.”

On its part, WaterAid Ghana said strengthening the resilience of future pandemics and health threats would not be possible, especially for vulnerable communities, without addressing WASH as a crucial aspect of public health.

The organization, therefore, urged the government of Ghana to commit to urgently increasing investment in hand hygiene through a ring-fenced budget allocation with a resource mobilization plan for hand hygiene aligned with the achievement of national hand hygiene plans.

“We call for a strengthened budget monitoring and tracking of hygiene and hand hygiene spending across sectors at national and sub-national levels,” WaterAid added.

The 2021 report of the Sustainable Development Goals Joint Monitoring Platform by the World Health Organization and UNICEF said handwashing coverage in Ghana improved by one percentage point to 42 percent in 2020 from the 41 percent recorded in 2015.

Both CONIWAS and WaterAid posited that the marginal improvement in Ghana’s handwashing coverage directly reflected the fear COVID-19 created in people in 2020.

These stakeholders argued that Ghana’s situation also mimicked the global scenario, which showed a four percentage-point increase in hand hygiene from 67 percent in 2015 to 71 percent in 2020.

The Global Handwashing Day was instituted by the Global Handwashing Partnership in 2008 and commemorated annually on October 15 to advocate for handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

In Ghana, the stakeholders, led by the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, carried out  public education activities across the 16 regions of the country to sensitize the public on the benefits and proper ways of handwashing under the global theme: “Our Future is At Hand: Let’s Move Forward Together.”

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