Without Fresh Water, It’s Not Easy to Have Clean Hands

By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

All over the world, children’s hands get dirty while they’re playing. But not everyone has access to soap and running water.  In Indonesia, one of the Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund has tackled the problem of cleanliness without easy access to fresh water.

“Children always enjoy playing here,” says Sriyatun, a tutor who works at the Early Childhood Development center in Kulonprogo, Central Java. “They play with the blocks, crayons, water and other local materials such as corn seed and bamboo.

“Their hands, however, soon become dirty,” she adds. “Children need to wash their hands before they eat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facility. We usually brought the children to the mosque next to our ECD center to wash their hands.”

3 women installing a clay pot

Sriyatun (in green), a tutor at an Indonesian ECD center, helps install a handwashing system.

Not wanting to prolong this situation, Sriyatun and the other tutors recently hand-built a “water facility” for the children in the front yard of the center. The system consists of clay water pots with spigots that were contributed by a parent. Teachers and parents still must bring the water from elsewhere, but the clay pots keep the water fresh and allow easy, controlled dispensing.

“It isn’t healthy to wash your hands using water from a bucket, as the water gets dirtier the more people use it,” Sriyatun says. “Also, as we should always use running water and soap when we wash our hands to prevent illnesseses such as diarrhea, we thought this idea would work.”

A growing awareness of the importance of handwashing is one result of ChildFund’s efforts to build integrated community-based health services.

“We want parents and children to be more aware of the importance of handwashing at the critical times of day, for example, before eating and after using the restroom,” Sriyatun notes. “It’s also important to wash your hands before feeding a child and after cleaning a child’s bottom and, of course, before preparing food and after touching animals.”

Today, people in the community are more aware of the importance of hygiene than they were in earlier generations, Sriyatun says. “They even practice handwashing at their home now, which they didn’t use to do.”

3-year-old boy washing his hands

Ngatini and her 3-year-old son practice handwashing at the ECD center.

According to one mother, Ngatini, whose 3-year-old son is enrolled in the ECD program, “If we ask them to wash their hands, they will do it, but it can sometimes be a challenge. If, on the other hand, the teacher asks them to wash their hands, children comply more easily and even do it at home without being asked to.”

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

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