WORLD HANDWASHING DAY

Why you should make handwashing a habit

In Kenya, more than 34,000 deaths are attributed to hygiene-related causes

In Summary

• Experts say basic handwashing can reduce diarrheal diseases by 30 to 40 per cent and acute respiratory tract infections by 20 per cent.

• However, more than 3 billion people, especially in rural areas, lack access to proper handwashing facilities across the world.

Participants during the Global Handwashing Day fete at the Amref University on October 15, 2020
Participants during the Global Handwashing Day fete at the Amref University on October 15, 2020

You are less likely to suffer from diarrhoea or respiratory infections if you wash hands properly. 

Experts say basic handwashing can reduce diarrheal diseases by 30 to 40 per cent and acute respiratory tract infections by 20 per cent.

However, more than three billion people, especially in rural areas, lack access to proper handwashing facilities across the world.

Consequently, preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia claim the lives of 2.8 million children globally. In Kenya, more than 34,000 deaths are attributed to hygiene-related causes. This translates to 90 deaths per day.

While marking the Global Handwashing Day on Thursday, health experts emphasised that washing hands with water and soap can contain Covid-19 pandemic and hygiene-related diseases.

Themed 'Hand Hygiene for All', this year’s celebrations raised awareness of making soap and water available, especially in public places, schools and healthcare facilities. It also called for institutions and individuals to improve hand hygiene. 

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said alongside social and physical distancing, handwashing has also become an important element of our lives.

“When the novel coronavirus emerged as a global pandemic, handwashing entered the spotlight as an important way to limit the spread of infectious diseases,” Kenyatta said. 

She added: “The Covid-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of viruses is also one of the simplest – through good hand hygiene, especially thorough handwashing with water and soap.”

Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi during Global Handwashing Day at the Amref University on October 15, 2020
Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi during Global Handwashing Day at the Amref University on October 15, 2020

Kenyatta expressed the need to adopt behaviour change that entrenches a culture of washing hands with water and soap. 

“Our experience during this Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened our resilience and unity of purpose to fight the effects of this disease,” she added.

Studies have shown handwashing is an effective defence in the fight to prevent infectious diseases including, cholera, Ebola and Covid-19.

Amref Health Africa Group CEO Githinji Gitahi said there's a need to think about hand hygiene every day and not to only keep Covid-19 at bay, but to also maintain a healthy livelihood.

"This is also a reminder to governments that access to water and sanitation is key and as such should be treated as a public good to ensure access to all," Dr Gitahi said.

Myriam Sidibe, National Business Compact for Coronavirus chairperson, noted the pandemic period exposed the glaring gaps between handwashing and its ‘siblings” water and hygiene

During the last seven months, NBCC has delivered over 7000 handwashing stations complete with soap all over the country.

Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi noted that handwashing is a proven protective measure against Covid-19. 

“Handwashing is our first line of defence during this pandemic. When you wash your hands you are actually administering yourself a vaccine,” Mwangangi said.