October 21, 2020 – The Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), and UNICEF joined together for the first time to celebrate Global Handwashing Day on Wednesday and campaign for a Clean Hands for All amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Learning and Partnership Symposium conducted virtually, the three institutions jointly pointed out that from the policy-level to community-driven action, handwashing is one of the simplest yet most effective solutions in catalyzing action for a lasting change in the public’s health behavior.

“We have participated in the global partnership led by the WHO [and UNICEF] which is a call to action for all of [the] society to achieve universal access to hand hygiene to combat COVID-19, and to prevent a whole range of other diseases,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said in a recorded message.

Secretary Briones added that DepEd continues to mobilize resources in creating, maintaining, and sustaining a culture of hand hygiene in schools and offices through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools (WinS) program.

The Education chief also pointed out that handwashing has been integrated into the Department’s Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), which was developed to ensure the health and safety of learners, teachers, and personnel while ensuring the access to learning opportunities.

Meanwhile, DepEd School Health Division (SHD) chief Dr. Maria Corazon Dumlao emphasized that the hygiene change in an institutional setting needs an enabling environment that mobilizes a systems approach to hygiene promotion.

“[The] key to sustaining the handwashing initiatives and creating a culture of handwashing is establishing the expectation to practice hand hygiene in all settings,” she said.

According to Dr. Dumlao, there is an urgent need for standards, evidence, data, inclusive and participatory implementation strategy, tools and techniques, performance measurement, and an incentive mechanism.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, meanwhile, emphasized that hand hygiene should not only be a personal habit but a commitment to protect the health of the community and the general public.

UNICEF Philippine Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov highlighted that creating a hygienic handwashing habit requires all sectors to work together to create an enabling environment in course of different settings.

During the panel discussion, strategies to support the handwashing campaign were tackled by different sectors, including the Department of Transportation (DOTr), National Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Council, National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).