Global Handwashing Day – Make Handwashing a Habit!
Handwashing with soap is one of the most important public health interventions in the world
Global Handwashing Day (October 15th) is a worldwide advocacy day dedicated to raising awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. Every year 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their 5th birthday due to diarrhoea and pneumonia. Handwashing with soap provides the most effective and inexpensive solution to prevent diseases caused by diarrhoea and pneumonia – this simple behaviour saves lives, reducing deaths from diarrhoea by almost a half, and deaths from acute respiratory infections by nearly a quarter.
Using soap to wash hands doesn’t just have an impact on health and nutrition, but also on education, economics and equity too.
Since 2008, community and national leaders have used Global Handwashing Day to spread the word about handwashing, building sinks and tippy taps, and to demonstrate the simplicity and value of clean hands. Every year, over 200 million people are involved in celebrations in over 100 countries around the world. The day is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies and individuals.
Handwashing with soap is affordable
Almost everyone in the world can afford soap, but recent surveys have uncovered a soap access equity gap, which means the world’s poorest households are less likely to have access to soap.
Handwashing with soap is a DIY vaccine that helps to prevent infections and saves lives
As handwashing prevents the transmission of bacteria and viruses, it may be more effective than any single vaccine. Studies have found that children living in households where there is active handwashing promotion and available soap have half the rates of diarrhoea compared to those where there is none. If promoted on a wide enough scale, handwashing with soap can be thought of as a DIY vaccine that’s easy, effective and affordable.
Handwashing is a cost-effective disease prevention solution
A $3.35 investment in promoting handwashing brings the same health benefits as an $11 investment in latrine construction, a $200 investment in household water supply and an investment in the promotion of handwashing with soap.
Everyone can prevent disease and improve health with handwashing
One person’s clean hands helps to prevent disease spreading to others. An entire classroom, office or community with clean hands effectively stops disease in its tracks.
But how do people without access to running water wash their hands? People without access to running water tend to make use of tippy taps, which are made using cans or plastic bottles that release a small amount of water – just enough for a clean hand wash each time they are tipped.
Water alone is not enough to remove bacteria from your hands
Washing hands with just water, a common practice around the world, is less effective than washing hands with soap. Soap breaks down germ-carrying grease and dirt. When the dirt and grease stays on your hands, so do the germs. Critical moments for handwashing are after using the toilet or cleaning a child and before handling food.
Many infections begin when hands are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and viruses, which can happen after using the toilet, coughing, sneezing and touching people’s hands and contaminated surfaces. Handwashing with soap removes bacteria and viruses from hands before they get the chance to spread and cause infections. Two major illnesses that are transmitted on the hands are diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Handwashing with soap could save approximately 230,000 lives each year.
Handwashing with soap is more effective than handwashing with water alone. Thorough handwashing requires soap and a small amount of water. Germs that cause diseases lodge in dirt, grease and the natural oils on your hands. Water alone won’t dislodge them, but adding soap helps to break down the germ-carrying oils, which can then be rinsed away with water.
Soap also adds to the time spent washing and ensures more effective cleansing. All soaps are equally effective at removing germs that cause disease. Why not try making your own soap this Global Handwashing Day with our how-to guide?
According to leading experts, the recommended time that you should spend washing your hands with soap is 20 seconds or about as long as it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice, but many of us are not washing our hands for long enough. Just take a look at this photography experiment by independent charity Nesta, which illustrates the bacteria that’s on our hands when we haven’t washed them with soap for long enough – you’ll be surprised!
Follow these 5 steps to ensure thorough handwashing:
Hi, I’m Liz, an interiors blogger. My main focus area is the bathroom, where I aim to inspire anyone who’s planning and designing a new bathroom – you’ll find plenty of tips, how-to guides and a wealth of ideas!