Clean Hands Save Lives
Hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces. Handwashing with soap works by interrupting the transmission of disease. When not washed with soap, hands that have been in contact with human or animal feces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions, and contaminated food or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to unwitting hosts. Washing hands with soap at critical moments such as before meal and after using toilet can prevent many diseases. Remember, clean hands, save lives!
Five Critical Messages for Clean Hands
- Washing hands alone with water is not enough!
Washing hands with water alone, a common practice around the world is significantly less effective than washing hands with soap. Washing hands with soap also leaves hands clean with pleasant smell.
- Handwashing with soap can prevent diseases that kill millions of children every year!
Handwashing with soap is among the most effective ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which is responsible for over 1.7 million under-five child deaths. Handwashing can also prevent skin infections, eye infections, intestinal worms, SARS and Avian Flu, and benefits the health of people living with HIV/AIDS. Handwashing is effective in preventing the spread of disease even in overcrowded, highly contaminated slum environments, research shows.
- The critical moments for handwashing with soap are after using the toilet or cleaning a child and before handling 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 (made by stick, rope and plastic container) are within the financial and technological reach of even the poorest communities.
- Handwashing with soap is the single most cost-effective health intervention!
Handwashing promotion is cost-effective when compared with other frequently funded health interventions. A HK$26.1 (US$3.35) investment in handwashing brings the same health benefits as a HK$85.8 (US$11) investment in latrine construction, a HK$1,560 (US$200) investment in household water supply, and an investment of thousands of dollars in immunisation.
- Children can be agents of change!
Children are open to new ideas and act as agents of change by taking the ‘handwashing lessons’ learned at school back into their homes and communities. Global Handwashing Day aims at motivating children to embrace and share proper handwashing practices, and place them as ‘handwashing ambassadors’ at the heart of each country’s national and local initiatives.
What diseases can handwashing with soap reduce?
- Diarrheal disease
Diarrheal infections are the fourth most common cause of death in children under five. Studies found that handwashing with soap cut the incidence of diarrhea by nearly half
- Acute respiratory infections
Acute respiratory infections like pneumonia are the leading cause of child deaths. Handwashing reduces the rate of respiratory infections by removing respiratory pathogens that are found on hands and surfaces, and other pathogens (in partcular, enteric viruses) that have been found to cause not only diarrhea, but also respiratory symptoms. Evidence suggests that better hygiene practices - washing hands with soap after defecation and before eating - could cut the infection rate by about 25 per cent
- Intestinal worm and skin and eye infections
Studies showed handwahsing with soap reduces the incidence of skin diseases; eye infections like trachoma; and intestinal worms, especially ascariasis abd trichuriasis.