Friday, October 15, 2010
Five Facts Everyone Should Know about Handwashing with Soap
Washing hands with water alone, a common practice around the world, is significantly less effective than washing hands with soap.Proper hand washing requires soap and only a small amount of water.Using soap works by breaking down the grease and dirt that carry most germs, facilitating the rubbing and friction that dislodge them and leaving hands smelling pleasant. The clean smell and feeling that soap creates are incentives for its use. With proper use, all soaps are equally effective at rinsing away disease-causing germs.
2. Handwashing with soap can prevent diseases that kill millions of children every year.
Hand washing with soap is among the most effective ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the majority of child deaths. Every year, more than 3.5 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhea and pneumonia. Hand washing can also prevent skin infections, eye infections, intestinal worms, SARS and Avian Flu, and benefits the health of people living with HIV/AIDS. Hand washing is effective in preventing the spread of disease even in overcrowded, highly contaminated slum environments, research shows.
3. The critical moments for hand washing with soap are after using the toilet or cleaning a child and before handling food.
Hands should be washed with soap after using the toilet, after cleaning a child’s bottom (or any other contact with human excreta, including that of babies and children) and before any contact with food. Hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs. It is important to ensure that people have a way to wash their hands at these critical moments. Simple, low-cost solutions like Tippy Taps are within the financial and technological reach of even the poorest communities.
4. Hand washing with soap is the single most cost-effective health intervention.
Hand washing promotion is cost-effective when compared with other frequently funded health interventions. A $3.35 investment in handwashing brings the same health benefits as an $11.00 investment in latrine construction, a $200.00 investment in household water supply, and an investment of thousands of dollars in immunization. Investments in the promotion of handwashing with soap can also maximize the health benefits of investments in water supply and sanitation infrastructure and reduce health risks when families do not have access to basic sanitation and water supply services. Cost is not typically a barrier to handwashing promotion; almost all households in the world already have soap – though it is commonly used for laundry, dishwashing, and bathing rather than for handwashing.
5. Children can be agents of change
When it comes down to sharing good hygiene practices, children – the segment of society so often the most energetic, enthusiastic and open to new ideas – can act as agents of change by taking the “hand washing lessons” learned at school back into their homes and communities. The active participation and involvement of children – ideally situated at the intersection of the home, school, and community – can ensure sustained behavioral change when combined with culturally sensitive community-based interventions. Global Handwashing Day aims at motivating children to embrace and share proper hand washing practices, and place them as “handwashing ambassadors” at the heart of each country’s national and local initiatives.
Source: Global Handwashing