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Global hand washing day–clean hands for all

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Hand washing day. Photo: PIXABAY

We all have habits. Good habits. Bad habits. As adults and as children. We caution the young ones on resisting bad habits and embracing the good ones, while we ourselves may still have our questionable routines hovering.

Children, like sponges, soak in all that they see us do. Let me illustrate with a story. A boy is playing in the park. He uses the swing, fingers curling around the swing-chain. He laughs cheekily as he oscillates rhythmically forwards and backward, his hands holding tightly to the support-chain. He later comes off the swing and rushes for an apple. Munching gleefully as he relishes each bite.

The next day, he suffers from food poisoning. A habit of washing his hands before eating could have saved him from the agony caused by ingesting pathogens. Other seemingly innocent actions such as touching surfaces and rubbing your eyes, easing an itch by scratching, holding objects and so on, spread diseases and infections faster than we can imagine. It was even once noted that more women died after childbirth due to medical practitioners not washing their hands before attending to the women.

Skin infections, worm infestation, diarrhea, chickenpox, and many more illnesses can be spread by unwashed and/or dirty hands. Children are more prone to these diseases. Their adventurous and inquisitive nature has them playing in odd places; touching everything to figure out what it is; picking strange objects from the floor, or even putting curious morsels in their mouths. According to the World Bank, 67% of deaths in Nigeria are a result of communicable diseases. About 60,000 children under the age of 5 in Nigeria die of diarrhea. According to WaterAid’s report last year, about 150,000 deaths in Nigeria are caused by improper handwashing and lack of simple hygiene yearly.

According to UNICEF, handwashing with soap has been cited as one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrheal-related deaths and other diseases. It is one of, if not the easiest way of preventing the spread of infections and diseases. Hand washing promotes good hygiene. Not the mere running of water through your hands or dipping them inside a bowl of water. When it’s available to use soap to wash your hands – thoroughly. Lather and wash the soap in-between your fingers, at the back of hands, your palms, around your fingers, fingernails, and tips. Wash your hands up to your wrists – thoroughly. That simple one to two-minute act can save the lives, money, time, resources, energy, emotions and wellbeing of yourself and other people you come in contact with directly or indirectly. Talk less of how hysterical we get when our children are sick. Washing of hands can reduce sicknesses; infections and disease-caused fatalities.

In China, it was discovered that the absenteeism rate among students reduced due to the promotion and distribution of soap in primary schools. A review of several studies also showed that handwashing in institutions such as primary schools and daycare centers reduces the incidence of diarrhea by an average of 30%. Sometimes we might not even do anything at all with our hands yet still come in contact with (harmful) micro-organisms. Let us encourage our children and peers to wash their hands. Let us wash our hands too. Reports have shown that proper hand washing saves lives. Wash your hands before cooking. Wash your hands before and after eating. Wash your hands after using the toilet. Wash your hands before and after using them for anything.

In fact, wash your hands at every reasonable opportunity. More importantly, wash your hands with soap and running water whenever you can. Happy Global Hand Washing Day! The 2019 Global Handwashing Day theme focuses on the links between handwashing and food – including food hygiene and nutrition. Handwashing is an important part of keeping food safe, preventing diseases, and helping children grow strong. Let’s make handwashing a lifestyle!

Talabi is an author, publisher of Clever Clogs Books and convener of Akada Children’s Book Festival.


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