File photo: Children at Happy Valley Daycare in Strandfontein observed Global Handwashing Day. Picture:Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)
File photo: Children at Happy Valley Daycare in Strandfontein observed Global Handwashing Day. Picture:Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)

World Hand Hygiene Day: Hand washing is key to preventing the spread of diseases

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published May 5, 2021

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South Africa, along with the rest of the world, celebrates World Hand Hygiene Day 2021 today.

A day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Lani Van Vuuren from Water Research Commission says hand washing has long been touted as an effective weapon in the arsenal against death and disease. Illnesses such as intestinal infectious disease (including diarrhoea) and respiratory illnesses (including influenza and pneumonia), which are among the leading causes of death for children under the age of five in South Africa, are hand hygiene-related diseases that can be prevented through improved hygiene practices.

“This includes hand washing. Evidence published by the Department of Health shows that hand washing can reduce incidence of diarrhoea by as much as 50% and respiratory infections by almost 25%.”

Preventing the spread of Covid-19 as well as many other diseases is as simple as a thorough hand washing,” says Shower to Shower brand manager Claire Bowen. “Education around this needs to start at home and in schools so that it becomes a standard process in life - whether you’re leaving the house or not. Maintain good hand hygiene for improved health and wellness.”

Bowen says that as a brand they’ve invested in a new range of Germ+ Protect liquid hand soaps – all pH-balanced and with moisturising oils, making them suitable for use often, and by the whole family.

According to the World Health Organization and WaterAid, hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs. In addition, they list the following facts about hand washing:

  • Hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs.
  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) people globally wash their hands with soap after going to the bathroom.
  • 1 in 3 primary schools worldwide do not have hand washing facilities.
  • 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.
  • Hand washing with soap reduces the risk of diarrheal diseases by 42-47%.
  • Lack of access to sanitation and poor hygiene contribute to approximately 88% of childhood deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases.

Bowen encourages South Africans to rethink their hand washing process, to make sure it’s done correctly:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
  • Rub your hands together, making sure to get all exposed areas for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

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