The ripple effect of washing your hands

Image: WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

Earlier this week, on 15 October, WaterAid recognised Global Handwashing Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of washing your hands after going to the toilet and before preparing or eating food.

Good handwashing and hygiene behaviour reduces cases of diarrhoea and maximises the benefits of clean water and decent toilets, keeping people healthy for generations to come.

For students in Siraha, Nepal, the introduction of improved water, sanitation and handwashing facilities, has had a positive impact on the school community.

Working through local partner organisation Nepal Water for Health, WaterAid has also delivered education focused on hygiene and menstrual health, a topic that is rarely discussed openly due to illiteracy and low levels of education in the region.

14-year-old Arjun told WaterAid that the simple introduction of soap has made a big difference to behaviour within the school.

"Before there was no soap in our school so we didn't wash hands,” Arjun recalls. “We washed hands rarely when there was a tube well... we wash regularly now there is soap and water."

15-year-old Ranjit, a fellow member of the student club, explained how this change had also allowed older students to be role models for younger students.

“I get a sense of satisfaction when I teach younger kids on how to wash hands and how to stay clean,” Ranjit explains. “If they clean their hands and stay healthy, it's good for us and we tell them if they do that, others will also learn from you doing that.”

“That will also have a ripple effect, because if pupils from other areas come in, and they see we are teaching our young kids to wash hands and stay clean then they will be impressed and say ‘I wish that was the same situation in our school also’. So that can spread good practice.”

WaterAid’s work in this region covers 63 schools, impacting 17,330 students and 623 teachers. WaterAid will also reach 1,923 community members in the Siraha and Udaypur regions of Nepal.