Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhoel diseases and respiratory infections which together are responsible for majority of child deaths. Handwashing with soap can reduce incidence of diarrhoeal by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one quarter. Yet despite its livesaving potential, handwashing with soap is seldom practiced and not always easy to promote.
CWSA has since 2001 provided the anchor for the promotion of handwashing with soap under its mandate for water and sanitation delivery and hygiene promotion.
Community Water and Sanitation Agency with the support of other partners embarked on an initiative to establish a public-private partnership to promote hand washing with soap. The goal was to harness and combine the marketing skills of the private sector with the public health objectives and capacities of government to reduce diarrhoeal diseases especially amongst children.
Most Ghanaans indeed do not have the habit of washing hands. In a Monitoring and Evaluation Baseline carried out by the market research company Research International (RI) in 2003, extremely low rates of handwashing with soap were recorded. Only 2.7% of mothers were observed to wash their hands with soap after defaecation, with 32% washing their hands with water alone. Even fewer, 2.3% washed their hands with water after disposing of a child’s faeces, while 63% did not wash their hands at all.In the schools, only 6.2% of children were observed to wash hands with soap after defaecation, while over 72% did not wash their hands at all. Of nearly 1000 children observed, only 5 washed their hands with soap before eating, 43% did wash their hands with water alone. A 2002 consumer study showed that soap was available in at least 95% of homes, suggesting that in the domestic environment the lack of soap is not a major constraint to handwashing with soap.
Using the strength of the public and private sectors, as well as those of external support agencies, the Ghana public private partnership for handwashing with soap led by CWSA, is implementing a highly professional communications programme, using the power of commercial marketing, through three main integrated communications channels mass media, direct consumer contact and a district level programme through schools, health centres, markets and communities among others. The Ghana programme is the first of a global initiative of Public-Private Partnerships to Promote Handwashing with soap which was launch in 2003.