The Department of Water and Sanitation urges South Africans to use soap while washing hands and prevent communicable diseases. (Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

The Department of Water and Sanitation urges South Africans to use soap while washing hands and prevent communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, as part of Global Handwashing Day.

Monday 15 October marks the annual Global Handwashing Day (GHWD).

''Department officials in different parts of the country will visit schools and communities to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap, foster and support a culture of handwashing with soap and to put the spotlight on the state of handwashing in previously disadvantaged communities. GHWD this year is celebrated under the theme 'Clean Hands-a recipe for health', and will focus on the links between handwashing and food, including food hygiene and nutrition,'' the department said.

''Members of the public are urged to wash hands with soap as it is proven as the single most effective way to prevent diarrhoea and other hygiene-related diseases as automatic behaviours performed in homes, schools, and communities. Scaling up handwashing hygiene with soap is estimated to prevent the deaths of many children, as well as reduce substantially the number of diarrhoeal incidences.''

According to research, washing hands with soap can reduce the rate of diarrhoeal infections by almost 50 percent and acute respiratory diseases by up to 25 percent, the department added. 

"When practiced by mothers and child birth attendants, it can reduce neonatal mortality rate by almost 40 percent."

- African News Agency (ANA)