Pretoria - As South Africa joined the global community in observing World Hand Hygiene Day on Friday, the Gauteng MEC for Health and Wellness, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, appealed to community members to practise hand hygiene “at all times” as it has proved to prevent and control infections and diseases.
“We are currently facing a cholera outbreak in the province, and it is important that we encourage communities to practise proper hand hygiene which includes thorough washing of hands with water and soap before and after using the bathroom and also when preparing or eating food,” she said.
Eleven cholera cases and one death have been confirmed in the heavily populated province, the Gauteng Health Department reported.
The outbreak coincides with World Hand Hygiene Day which is observed annually on May 5. The commemoration is aimed at increasing awareness of hand-hygiene standards at home, in the workplace and health-care facilities, thereby protecting health-care workers and communities from infections.
The theme for this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day, “Accelerate Action Together. Save Lives – Clean Your Hands”, emphasises accelerating working together to reduce the spread of infection and antimicrobial resistance in health-care settings.
Nkomo-Ralehoko said thoroughly washing hands with soap and water had saved many lives, and it was critical that the public and health-care officials made the important life-saving practice a habit.
“Practising hand hygiene has proved to prevent and control infections and diseases throughout the years. During the Covid-19 pandemic, regularly washing hands with soap and water was one of the golden rules that prevented the spread of the infectious virus.
“It is important that people wash their hands before, during and after preparing food; before and after eating food; before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhoea; and before and after treating a cut or wound. It is also important to wash hands after changing nappies or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste; after handling pet food or pet treats; and after touching garbage,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.
As part of efforts to ensure that the Gauteng department of health curbed the spread of infections and diseases associated with poor hygiene practices, environmental health specialists and health promoters have been visiting townships, informal settlements and hostels across the province.
They are on a mission to educate street food vendors about ensuring their customers are given soap and water to wash their hands before they are served their food.