Global Handwashing Day: Hand hygiene has never been this important

Thursday, October 15, is Global Handwashing Day, a day that aims to spread awareness of the importance of good handwashing and hygiene.

This year’s theme, “hand hygiene for all”, follows the recent global initiative encouraging hand hygiene amidst the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our health is in our hands and we need to create a safe environment in both our homes and public areas to be able to have access to good sanitation, hygiene and hand washing facilities. According to Unicef, handwashing with soap is one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, as well as many other infectious diseases.

“Preventing the spread of Covid-19 as well as many other diseases is as simple as a thorough hand-washing,” says Shower to Shower brand manager Claire Bowen. “Education around this needs to start at home and in schools so that it becomes a standard process in life – whether you’re leaving the house or not. Maintain good hand hygiene for improved health and wellness.”

Bowen says that as a brand, they’ve invested in a new range of Germ+ Protect liquid hand soaps – all PH balanced and with moisturising oils, making them suitable for use often, and by the family.

To educate children on the importance of washing hands, the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Unicef, and Lifebuoy are signing a tri-partite declaration of intent to change the way the letter H is taught in the alphabet from “H is for Hat” to “H is for Handwashing”, with the objective to make “H” the universal symbol for Handwashing in all schools nationwide.

Inspired by how children learn their A-B-Cs, the way the letter H is taught has been reimagined, advocating that H stands for Handwashing. This initiative was co-created with global education, health, humanitarian, and behavioural change experts to encourage handwashing habits from a young age.

This follows the international spotlight the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef have placed on the importance of handwashing with soap amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

While Covid-19 has elevated the importance of hand hygiene, the need for it goes beyond the virus. This remains a critical concern in South Africa, where children are most impacted by poor hygiene. “Hand hygiene needs to become part of our everyday life, now and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Handwashing with soap is the easiest and most cost-effective way to save lives. This needs to be practised and prioritised. We are looking forward to collaborating with Lifebuoy and Unicef on this vital initiative, integrating hygiene education into early childhood learning,” says Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.

According to the WHO and WaterAid, hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs. In addition, they list the following facts about hand washing:

    Hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs.Only 1 in 5 (19%) people globally wash their hands with soap after going to the bathroom.1 in 3 primary schools worldwide do not have handwashing facilities.443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.Handwashing with soap reduces the risk of diarrheal diseases by 42-47%.Lack of access to sanitation and poor hygiene contribute to approximately 88% of childhood deaths caused by diarrheal diseases.

Bowen encourages South Africans to rethink their handwashing process, to make sure it’s done correctly:

    Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soapLather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nailsRub your hands together, making sure to get all exposed areas for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the Rinse your hands well under clean, running waterDry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.