Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together account for 3.5 million child deaths annually. Access to improved water and sanitation facilities does not, on its own, necessarily lead to improved health. Evidence shows that handwashing with soap is the single most effective WASH intervention that helps in reducing diarrhea – the second leading cause of death amongst children. Good handwashing practices reduce the incidence of other diseases, notably pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, trachoma, scabies, and skin and eye infections.
Through the project, Shubh Arambh (Phase 2.0) Bal Raksha Bharat has reached out to 126 Government schools of 4 states in India since September 2017. Amongst there project locations in India, Baddi – an industrial town in Himachal Pradesh, is one of the focus areas of intervention. Here, Bal Raksha Bharat implemented the project targeting 6000 students in 20 government schools. Government Middle school in Dharampur is among the 20 schools in Baddi, where we implemented this project.
Sessions on WASH and hygiene were held in school, during one such school session on personal hygiene, school students were made aware of the correct way of handwashing by following the six steps along with other washing and cleaning practices of different body parts. Responding to this, the children pointed out that though water is available in the toilets and handwashing platforms, they mostly do not find soap to wash their hands properly or keep the area hygienic. This issue was taken up by the Bal Raksha Bharat’s project staff. This issue was taken up in the monthly meeting. They also discussed the possible spread of diseases because of the unavailability of soap. The teachers and parents present at the monthly meeting realized the situation and suggested to do something to avoid the unforeseen circumstances. While discussing different ideas, Neena, a child champion, shared the idea of starting a Soap Bank. This bank will have the Bal Cabinet members and the Child Champions of the school playing a pivotal role in maintaining the bank and managing the toilets and handwashing platforms in school. All accepted the idea. Subsequently, it was also decided that instead of children distributing chocolates, toffees on their birthdays at school, they could be suggested to donate soap and other sanitary materials or can donate some money to the soap bank. Besides, whenever there is a visitor in school, they would be requested to donate some money to the soap bank, by which the fund to manage the soap bank would be generated. Eventually, the Bal cabinet members formed the Soap Bank. It was also finalized on how to operate it, and accordingly, the responsibilities were shared among the Bal Cabinet Members. On the same day, all the SMC members donated money, and Rs.650 was the initial amount deposited to the bank. Since then, the Bal Cabinet Members have been looking after the soap bank, and at the same time, they take care of handwashing platforms and toilets accordingly in school.
Now the Bal Cabinet Members discuss and plan in detail about managing this soap bank in their monthly meeting facilitated by the project staff. They have ready stock available of all the required materials like soap, harpic, phenyl, brush, etc. to make the required spaces clean and hygienic. Inspired by this, seven more schools in the area have also started doing this.