This year, Global Handwashing Day holds greater significance as the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps through the world.
Global Handwashing Day is marked on 15 October each year to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap. This year the theme is ‘Hand Hygiene for All.’ The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of this healthy habit.
“It is critically important to clean your hands regularly with water and soap or an alcohol-based hand rub,” says the United Nations. Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table-tops, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
“Hand washing is one of the simplest but most effective measure to combat communicable diseases,” says Dr Suzan Louw from the Department of Haematology at the University of Witwatersrand. “Bacteria and viruses need to have a vehicle to get from one person to another and hands are that vehicle that transport the micro-organisms into one’s body.”
In communities where there is shortage of running water, Louw encourages families to refrain from using same water to wash their hands.
“Where there is a shortage of running water people must put water into smaller containers and wash hands in separate containers,” she says.
Teaching the next generation
This Global Handwashing Day, experts are also encouraging parents and guardians to find creative ways to teach their children how to wash their hands.
“Children learn by example and by fun activities. It’s important to find simple ways to remind children of the importance of washing their hands regularly and instilling the culture of washing their hands,” says Louw. She also encourages parents to reward children for washing their hands to reinforce positive behaviour.
Proper hand washing among children can be life-saving. Diarrhoea is the third leading cause of death among children under five, according to the World Health Organisation. Instilling the importance of hand washing among children helps combat the spread of viruses and bacteria.
“Regular hand washing helps to improve the general health of our population especially on children as they are more vulnerable to communicable diseases,” says Louw. “They do not have the social distancing that we as adults have learnt and its difficult for children to not share toys nor eat from the same bowl.” – Health-e News