Every year an estimated four million newborns die in the first month of their lives. Of these deaths, 86% are due to a combination of infections, prematurity and complications during labor. Simple, low-cost health interventions could reduce this figure by up to 70%. One such intervention is handwashing with soap.
A recent community study in Nepal concluded that handwashing with soap can reduce newborn deaths by up to 44%. For countries where newborn mortality is high, adopting handwashing with soap as a standard practice before delivery and while handling newborns is not only important, but it saves lives. But how do you motivate individuals to adopt handwashing with soap as an ingrained habit? Programs that encourage the adoption of habits and ensure community-wide consensus can enable individuals to practice good hygiene at scale and over time.
In Indonesia, in celebration of Global Handwashing Day, activities were held in all of the districts in which MCHIP is working, and more. Prior to the event, radio jingles were played, and on October 14 a 90-minute talk show (with District Health Staff, MCHIP and the perinatal professional association) about handwashing and newborn healthwas broadcast. In the city of Bandung, the Governor of West Java Province spent the day with school children teaching them how to wash their hands properly. In Aceh, the Governor of the District led a large event, which included his singing a song on stage about handwashing! Midwifery students, the next generation of health care providers, conducted handwashing demonstrations and activities with mothers and babies and provided educational materials on the importance of washing one’s hands. And lastly, bars of soap were distributed to the community members for their own use at home.
“It was an exciting day here throughout Indonesia,” said Anne Hyre, MCHIP Chief of Party, Indonesia. “To see the community so engaged, leadership intimately involved and midwifery students a part of such an important learning event was special. Now we are hoping that the momentum carries on for ‘More Than Just One Day’.”
On this Global Handwashing Day and beyond, MCHIP remains committed to doing all that is possible to save the lives of mothers and newborns—and handwashing with soap is one simple, effective and low-cost solution.