Note: This article has been brought to you by HUL’s ‘Swachh Aadat, Swachh Bharat’ programme. Find out more about it here.
On October 15, 2014, 1.2 million children in Madhya Pradesh set a Guinness World Record for something very unusual – for the most number of people washing hands in multiple locations! If you are wondering ‘But why that?!’, the answer shows a harsh reality. As per UNICEF, over 1.5 million children under five die each year as a result of diarrhoea, and handwashing can reduce that by 40%. Even the PM lauded this as a successful awareness raising initiative towards India’s Swachh Bharat dream.
The truth is, diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery and more seem ‘small’ because we always perceive them to be ‘harmless’, but the threat they pose especially to children is something that’s rarely discussed. For instance, watch how children miss out the simple joys of their childhood due to repeated illness.
So here are three simple everyday habits that can address this threat head-on, and ensure that we’re not at a risk of falling repeatedly ill.
In a country with over a billion people, just the simple act of washing hands with soap can ensure that many diseases remain in control. A good activity we can do is ensure that our immediate surroundings – homes, offices, schools and colleges – have handwashing soap. While this activity is largely underrated, its impact can’t be ignored. For instance, in Reshan village in the Kakaria district of Ranchi, children took charge of healthy living, started trimming their nails and washing their hands with soap, and insisting that their parents do so as well. After this activity, Ashok Berai, president of the Village Education Committee, said, “In two years, we have really seen a difference. Diseases have dropped considerably and the village is clean.”
Children in 100 million Indian households live without access to clean drinking water – an abysmal reality when 80% diseases are water-borne. Contaminated water makes children more susceptible to diseases, and in many cases, pushes women towards sickness and early marriage. Therefore, it’s a must that we do our bit to promote low-cost solutions to get clean drinking water solutions. WHO states that clean drinking water alone can reduce the disk of diarrhoea-related diseases by 50%!
In Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district, 4th grader Shweta couldn’t complete a daily ‘Clean Habits’ tracker as part of HUL’s ‘Swachh Aadat’ curriculum, as she didn’t have a toilet at home. That day, she refused to go to school until toilets were constructed at her house, and this led to a toilet revolution in her village. Data from 23 states proves that there is a direct correlation between usable toilets in schools, and children staying in schools.
Keeping toilets clean has a direct impact on children’s health, and is especially necessary for young menstruating girls. Moreover, 200,000 infants die in India every year due to open defecation and building, using and keeping toilets clean is the biggest way to fight this disturbing mortality. Moreover, this will have a direct positive impact on India’s economy, and future.
These three habits are simple, everyday habits which play the biggest role in helping us reclaim a basic human right – that to health, clean water and sanitation. Let’s not forget that access to clean water and sanitation should never be a privilege, but a basic right for all – a right that starts with India’s children.
Find out everything you need to know about exercising these 3 habits every day, and don’t forget to pass the knowledge on to people around you who don’t follow the habits!