By: Lunga Memela (HST Communications Engagement Lead) and Mandisa Dlamini (HST Communications Intern)
Most people grow up acquiring good manners. We know how to say "please" and "thank you" and most of us have relatively good hand hygiene; washing hands with soap and water before eating and after using the bathroom. What became very clear during the pandemic regarding good hand hygiene is that some people do not adhere to it, becoming a catalyst in the spread of disease. Having ridden the very rough wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial, now more than ever, that we continue to focus on proper hand hygiene as part of our fight against the spread of bacteria and viruses.
Think about how many surfaces you touch daily? Your desk at home or school, your laptop, pen, handbag, shopping bag, a trip into the mall and its many shops, that coffee shop for your regular latte …
Global Handwashing Day on 15 October dovetails with the World Health Organization's (WHO) observance of World Hand Hygiene Day, reminding us of the benefits of handwashing. The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reiterates that: "One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy is also one of the simplest – handwashing with soap and water. Keeping hands clean can prevent 1 in 3 diarrheal illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu." The CDC recommends cleaning hands in a specific way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others:
The CDC is happy to show you the science behind how germs get onto hands and make people sick.
Global Handwashing Partnership
Working actively to save children's lives and improve health by promoting handwashing with soap, the coalition, Global Handwashing Partnership, encourages everyone across the world to unite for universal hand hygiene. They say Global Handwashing Day is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. "Leveraging the learnings from recent years, the time to accelerate hand hygiene progress is now – and it requires a collective effort to enact real change. As the world moves beyond COVID-19 to our new normal, we must unite for universal hand hygiene."
The coalition was pleased to announce on 10 October 2022 that their Handwashing Handbook is now available in six languages: (initially) English, (and today) Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, and Spanish – ensuring more people have access to the critical content the handbook provides.
Reiterating the message
"Yes, washing our hands really can help curb the spread of coronavirus," said the South African Medical Research Council during the devastating outbreak of COVID-19. At the moment, October 2022, South Africans are concerned about the increase of COVID-19 cases in the Western Cape. Are we in any position to risk not taking precautionary measures?
In an article published by the open-access medical and life science hub, News-Medical Life Sciences, Dr Priyom Bose, reminds healthcare workers and professions that it is extremely important to prevent the spread of germs, especially, in hospital settings, healthcare-related facilities, such as dialysis centres, nursing homes, and general public places. "According to a recent report, thousands of people across the world die from infections acquired while receiving healthcare. Hygiene is one of the easiest, nonetheless, an important means to reduce the spread of diseases and infection," she says.
The take home message is that hand hygiene is critical for everyone across the globe: children, adults, healthcare professions, the food industry – everyone!
Download WHO Africa Region's brochure: Hand Hygiene: Why, How & When?
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