COVID-19 Handwashing campaign promises sustainable hygienic practices in Ghana

( Dr Meshach  Agogoe using his hanwashing machine)

Proper handwashing with soap under running water is critical for the prevention of infectious diseases, but this is not a common practice everywhere in most part of the world especially in developing countries.  The outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) necessitated the need for a national handwashing campaign alongside other important behaviours like physical distancing as the first line of defence against the spread of the pandemic.

The campaign responds directly to the threat of the pandemic’s impact on people’s lives, health and livelihood and focus on handwashing with soap under running water to help people keep hands clean and to avoid the spread of the virus. The effort brought together various institutions, organizations, agencies, researchers and individuals who continue to provide divers solutions.

The campaign was first met with increasing demand for the “Veronica bucket” which is used in many places such as homes, workplaces, markets, churches, and mosques. The Veronica bucket is a bucket with a tap near the bottom, perched above a basin to catch runoff for effective hand washing. It has become essentially the first line of action against (COVID-19) due to its previous use in preventing the spread of some infectious diseases such as cholera and Ebola in other African countries.

The name “Veronica bucket” was coined from its inventor Madam Veronica Bekoe, a Ghanaian biological scientist who once headed the National Public Reference Laboratory in Ghana. It was during her time at the laboratory that she was inspired to invent the bucket.

 Another progress aimed at supporting the work of the handwashing campaign is works of 51 years old Rev. Dr Meshach  Kwesi Agogoe, the founder and director of Life Changing Counselling Center (LCCC) at Afienya in the Ningo-Prampram district  of the Greater-Accra Region.

With a background in Mechanical Engineering from Cuba, Dr Agogoe worked with his wife to develop a foot operated handwashing machine. His initial invention received a lot of encouragement and motivation from friends and family, enabling him to improve further. Dr Agogoe has since developed and distributed some of his innovative technology to his community members and is currently making greater progress to improve on his technology for nationwide circulation.

His handwashing machine is in twofold, one made of galvanized metal and the other of wood. The machine has a three-foot pedal, one for dispensing the liquid soap, the other for water and the third for hand sanitizer. It allow users to wash their hands without touching any of the surfaces with their hands.

Speaking to DevGoals Africa, Dr Agogoe praised God for giving him the knowledge and wisdom for the innovation. “I thank God for using me to develop this innovative machine to help curtail the spread of COVID-19.” He was moreover hopeful his invention would put a smile on the faces of the people and assist in reducing the effect of the pandemic, thus impacting positively on his community.

The work of Dr Agogoe adds up to the other similar inventions currently ongoing in the country alongside the Veronica bucket, to mitigate the threat of the coronavirus as well as promote hygienic behaviours in support national health system.

Meshach Appiah, a pharmacy attendant and Mary Mifetu a 39 years old business woman and a mother of four in Accra believes, the handwashing campaign is really shaping the behaviour of most Ghanaians.  “Thanks to the Veronica bucket and all handwashing equipment available, it is now possible for most people to wash their hands more frequently than before”.

 Both Meshach and Mary agree that the handwashing campaign is the open door into entirely healthy nation as it responds directly to the threat of the pandemic’s impact on people’s lives and increase awareness of hand hygiene.

The Behaviour change resulting from the handwashing campaign represent a major significant step toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 3 which focus on ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Source: Devgoals Africa by Nii Odenkey Abbey