Knowledge and practices of handwashing associated with childcare tasks is abysmally poor in rural India, a new study released to mark Global Handwashing Day has said.
According to WaterAid India’s new study ‘Spotlight on handwashing in rural India’, handwashing with soap at five critical times – after defecation, after cleaning a child’s bottom, before feeding infants/children, before eating and before food preparation, are estimated to reduce diarrhoeal diseases by 47 per cent.
The study examined the levels of awareness about practices related to hand hygiene behaviour in rural households in four states– Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Odisha.
While handwashing after defecation and before eating is high in general, hygiene practices among surveyed individuals having a child under five in their home was low.
“Only 26.3 per cent washed hands before child feeding, 14.7 per cent before breastfeeding, 16.7 per cent after disposing child faeces, and 18.4 per cent after cleaning a child’s bottom,” the study said It said only 12.6 per cent people wash hands before feeding their child.
The study noted that in 2015, an estimated 321 children died everyday due to diarrhoea, the second leading cause of death among children under the age of five in India.
Hygiene behaviours are critical to prevent leading causes of death and diseases in children, particularly diarrhoea among children under the age of five, it said. Hand hygiene, particularly, handwashing with soap, is recognised as a highly cost-effective public health intervention, having the potential to significantly reduce disease burden, according to the study.
The report aims to inform and strengthen health and nutrition related policies and is being released to mark Global Handwashing Day on October 15, a day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap.
WaterAid India’s Policy Manager, Arundati Muralidharan, said “handwashing is underrated and often forgotten when we talk about water, sanitation and hygiene.”
“It is a simple and cost-effective intervention that can play a critical role in battling the pressing child health problems in our country,” Muralidharan said in a release.