Key to the success of the Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP) is the network of academic institutions, multilateral and governmental agencies, NGOs and community-based organizations, and private sector entities that come together to push forward the importance of hygiene as a pillar of international development and public health.
In the Philippines, the Manila Water Foundation (MWF) is the only local organization that is a member of the GHP. MWF is the social development arm of Manila Water, the water utility subsidiary of the Philippines’s oldest conglomerate, servicing over seven million people in Metro Manila. The foundation was established in 2005, and10 years later it became a stand-alone, non-profit organization that champions water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) education in the country’s marginalized communities. It became a member of the GHP in 2008, joining other prestigious international non-profits and multinationals who formed the international coalition that started Global Handwashing Day (GHD) that same year.
Today, MWF continues to build on its parent company’s strengths to contribute to the global development agenda, using a participatory, responsive, and holistic approach. Under its Health in Our Hands (HiOH) Program, MWF furthers the international movement’s advocacy of handwashing with soap and clean water as a way to prevent communicable diseases and illnesses such as COVID-19.
MWF is now on its eighth year of celebrating the global handwashing campaign and it comes at a most crucial time when world health experts are emphasizing the practice of proper handwashing as crucial in keeping the world’s population safe from infectious diseases.
Embracing this year’s GHD theme, “Hand Hygiene for All,” the foundation has embarked on an inclusive and wide-ranging campaign to reach as many people as possible, even in a time of restricted movement and physical distancing.
“No matter the race, gender, or social status, all of us are called to achieve universal hand hygiene,” said Manila Water President and MWF Chair Rene Almendras .“This, for us, is a challenge that we need to respond to – a call to help improve the access to proper hygiene, and impart knowledge on proper handwashing, especially for the marginalized and underserved communities.”
The month-long celebration of GHD this October is marked today with keynote speeches from the GHP, the Department of Health, Department of Education, and UNICEF Philippines, with Almendras delivering the opening remarks.
MWF also took on several initiatives this month, aimed at addressing the issue of water access, sanitation and hygiene, and providing access for all to the information and the facilities needed for safe handwashing.
First was the installation of handwashing stations across the National Capital Region, which started on October 12 at the Ramon Magsaysay High School in Manila City where a 10-faucet hygiene facility was installed. Same facility will be set up on October 16 at the Marikina Sports Center, followed by more installations on October 30 at the La Mesa Ecopark and at the Tahanang Walang Hagdan.
Hygiene kits and information and education materials also form a crucial part of achieving safe handwashing practices for more people. To this end, MWF partnered with Procter & Gamble, Safeguard Philippines, and PHILUSA Corporation, and embarked on the distribution of thousands of hand hygiene supplies to city jails, orphanages, and homes for the elderly, as well as to indigenous communities among the Mangyans in Mindoro and the Dumagats in Sitio Calawis in Antipolo City, Rizal. Hygiene supplies and information and education materials will also be given to public institutions in Boracay, Cebu City, Davao City, and Zamboanga City before the end of October.
“To lead this kind of advocacy is not an easy task,” said Almendras. “Thus, we seek like-minded organizations to reach more people in the country. We are very thankful to our partners who tirelessly support us to make our yearly campaign successful.”
To know more about this year’s Global Handwashing Day celebration and MWF’s HiOH program, visit https://manilawaterfoundation.org/our-programs/flagship-programs/health-in-our-hands/global-handwashing-day .