On May 12, 2022, Uganda’s districts of Mubende and Kassanda, the epicenters of the recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak that was caused by the Sudan Ebola virus (SUDV), commemorated the World Hygiene Day, 2023. This is a global healthcare event commemorated worldwide on May 5th every year to raise awareness about the importance of hygiene and sanitation practices in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and promoting good health.
This year, the event was commemorated under the theme “Together, we can accelerate action to prevent infections and antimicrobial resistance in health care and build a culture of safety and quality in which hand hygiene improvement is given high priority”.
In Kassanda and Mubende districts, several weeklong infection prevention and control (IPC) activities, including a baseline hand hygiene compliance assessment in selected healthcare facilities, and distribution of hand washing supplies for healthcare facilities kick-started the commemoration that ended with a meeting attended by district leaders, healthcare workers, and implementing partners (World Health Organization, Mildmay Uganda, and Baylor-Uganda). The baseline hand hygiene compliance assessment, distribution of hand washing supplies and commemoration meeting was organised by the district local government leaders supported by Baylor-Uganda with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At the meeting, Baylor-Uganda presented findings from the baseline hand hygiene compliance assessment that was conducted in 15 healthcare facilities with considerable challenges in implementing IPC procedures and practices in Kassanda and Mubende districts. Overall, compliance with hand hygiene standards among assessed healthcare facilities was reported at 46%, indicating a significant need for improvement. To address this issue, Baylor-Uganda is working with the Ministry of Health, district leaders and other partners to accelerate the implementation of a comprehensive IPC program, including hand hygiene. Support being provided includes training and mentorships for healthcare workers on proper hand hygiene techniques. Baylor-Uganda also provided alcohol-based hand sanitizers and soap to the healthcare facilities and further installed handwashing stations in strategic locations for the community to promote handwashing.
In addition to these measures, the program will continue to monitor and evaluate these healthcare facilities to ensure they improve and sustain their compliance with hand hygiene protocols. Because our hands, especially our fingertips and nails, are the dirtiest portions of our bodies, the Mubende District Health Officer encouraged participants to wash their hands often. “We can prevent illness and transmit germs by constantly washing our hands with soap and water,” he said. “We should wash our hands before and after eating, using the restroom, coughing or sneezing, and touching potentially contaminated surfaces,” he added.
Health workers who attended the meeting demonstrated the importance of maintaining good hand hygiene as a way of preventing disease with emphasis on the five moments for hand hygiene for health workers. Hand washing demonstration sessions conducted by health workers at the meeting and in the community emphasized the use of proper handwashing techniques to ensure that we remove infectious agents from our hands, using soap and clean water, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The local chairpersons, chief administrative officers, and resident district commissioners also stressed the importance of clean water and waste management systems in healthcare facilities, schools, businesses, homes, and the community to keep us healthy and disease-free. “We can fight diseases like diarrhea, flu, pneumonia, COVID-19 and Ebola if we wash our hands,” they emphasized. The Resident District Commissioners of the two districts thanked all implementing partners, including Baylor-Uganda, for helping the district overcome Ebola quickly through their efforts, including hand washing.
The World Hand-Hygiene Day 2023 comes at an opportune time when Uganda is in the 180-day recovery phase of the EVD-SUDV. One of the priorities of this phase is to strengthen IPC readiness and capacities for EVD and other diseases of epidemic potential at public and private healthcare facilities in preparation for future outbreak responses.
Together, we can build a culture of safety and quality through clean hands and prevent life-threatening hospital-acquired infections.