Washing your hands with soap reduces your risk of illness. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

Sanitation is one of the basic necessities which contribute to human dignity and quality of life. It’s an essential pre-requisite for success in the fight against poverty, hunger, child deaths, gender inequality and empowerment.

As the world will be celebrating annual Global Handwashing Day on Sunday, let’s remember that by washing hands we not only practise good hygiene standards, but we’re also eliminating the spread of water-borne diseases that can cause diarrhoea and other diseases while protecting those we come into contact with. 

This is a global call to help protect and improve the health of children in particular. Once this has been achieved, in turn, school attendance and academic performance can improve tremendously. 

In addition, this campaign seeks to motivate and mobilise millions around the world to wash their hands with soap to reduce childhood mortality rates related to respiratory and diarrhoeal diseases.

This can be achieved through:

– Promoting a balanced national hand-washing programming framework. 

– Raising awareness of hand-washing with soap as the most effective and inexpensive way to reduce the spread of disease. 

– Reducing government expenditure on health (when less people contract communicable diseases, less money will be used by the government to provide free vaccines). 

– Supporting inter-sectoral approaches.

– Supporting community management through effective decentralisation. 

– Focusing on sanitation, water quality and hygiene at the household level. 

Diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever and trachoma are some of the diseases caused by bad hygiene practices. 

We can all fight these diseases by following six simple steps when washing our hands:

– Wet hands and apply soap well then rub hands together.

– Rub the back of both hands.

– Interlace fingers and rub hands together. 

– Interlock fingers and rub the back of fingers of both hands.

– Rub thumb in a rotating manner followed by the area between the index fingers and thumb for both hands.

– Rub fingertips on palm of both hands. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel or paper towel. 

While washing our hands with running water and soap, we also need to be aware of our water situation. Once again, this encourages us to do more with less. 

Phetho Ntaba

Department of Water and 
Sanitation, Western Cape Provincial office