By Our Staff Reporter
Rishikesh, 15 Oct: Forty percent of the world’s population does not have access to basic hand-washing facilities. It has been seen, now more than ever during this Covi-19 pandemic, that basic Hand Hygiene is one of the most cost-effective and efficient interventions for the prevention of infectious diseases. A Global Handwashing Day webinar was organised, today, by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and the Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) bringing together the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF India, UNFPA India, United Nations Volunteers and heads of interfaith leaders of five major faith traditions– Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain and Sikh.
Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and President, Parmarth Niketan, Swami Chidanand Saraswati gave the welcome address, “In our tradition, proper hygiene practices have always been a core foundation. We emphasise the purity of both mind and body. To have hygiene on any level, we must have water. Clean water brings life and health. Let’s pledge to work together to conserve and preserve our water. If we don’t have clean water how can we have a healthy world?”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is inspiring a grassroots movement through the flagship Swachh Bharat Movement. Now, the Ministry of Jal Shakti is committed to ensuring running tap water in every home via the Jal Jeevan Mission.
Speaking on the commitment of the Government of India to ensure healthy hygiene practices, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan shared in his video message, “The Covid-19 pandemic has enhanced the critical role that hand hygiene plays in prevention of transmission of the disease. In fact, hand hygiene, with properly-worn face-cover or mask and physical distancing has become the most-powerful tool and social vaccine to prevent the spread of Covid-19. ”
Dr Saumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organisation in Geneva, spoke of the advocacy that’s necessary for behaviour change. How faith leaders could play an important part, telling people that these sanitation and hygiene behaviours are vital. In times of pandemic, three Cs need to be avoided: Crowded places, Close contact with people and Closed indoor, poorly-ventilated spaces. The fourth behaviour is the most-important action of hand-washing with soap.
Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Country Representative for India, Matavel Piccin of Argentina with UNFPA India, Sadhvi Bhagavati Saraswati, Secreary General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, were among those who pointed out that nearly 2 million young children die each year because of diarrhoeal and respiratory illnesses. Good hand-washing with soap actually can prevent about a third of diarrhoeal illnesses and about 20 percent of respiratory illnesses.
Arun Sahdeo, Country Coordinator, United Nations Volunteers in India, said, “When we talk about bringing about behavioural change among the people, there is no other asset as valuable as volunteers.” Haji Syed Salman Chisthy, the Gaddi Nashin of Dargah Ajmer Sharif, said, “In Islamic spirituality, the first and foremost aspect of the spiritual path is the cleansing of your ego and the cleansing of your physical aspect. You must clean yourself ritualistically so that you can present yourself to the Divine in prayer and worship.”Father Paul Moonjely, Executive Director, Caritas India shared “In the Bible, in Leviticus, it is said that when you have illness, then you shall clean yourself for 7 days with running waters, and you shall be clean.”
Stated WSSCC India Head Vinod Mishra, “We have to make sure that hand-washing practices become universal as they bring enormous benefits.”
In addition, videos of hand-washing instruction activities throughout India and at the Parmarth Gurukul were shared. Messages of interfaith support were sent by Sadhvi Shilapi of the Jain faith from Veerayatan Institute, Kutch; Bhikkhu Sanghasena in Ladakh; Sardar Paramjit Singh Chandhok, Chairman, Delhi Gurudwara Bangla Saheb. Presentations on the work of the UN Volunteers and the WSSCC Team in Jharkhand during the pandemic were also shared.
The virtual meeting was moderated by Ganga Nandini, Director of Programme Implementation, Integration & Communication, GIWA.