In praise of washing hands

Health Watch, Normal

THE driving theme for Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is ‘Children and Schools’ with the main objectives of this global celebration being:
* Fostering and supporting a global and local culture of hand washing with soap; 
* Shining a spotlight on the state of hand washing in each country; and 
* Raising awareness about the benefits of hand washing with soap.
Although people around the world wash their hands with water, very few wash their hands with soap at critical occasions.
More hand washing with soap means lower rates of infectious diseases: Clean Hands Saves Lives!
Initiated in 2008 by the Global Private Partnership for hand washing with soap, GHD is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe.
The practice of hand washing with soap tops the international hygiene agenda on Oct 15, with the celebration of GHD.
Since its inception in 2008 – which was designated as the International Year of Sanitation by the UN General Assembly – GHD has been echoing and reinforcing the call for improved hygiene practices worldwide.
The guiding vision of GHD is a local and global culture of hand washing with soap. Hand washing with soap is among the most-effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the majority of child deaths.
Every year, more than 3.5million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Yet, despite its life-saving potential, hand washing with soap is seldom practiced and not always easy to promote.
The challenge is to transform hand washing with soap from an abstract good idea into an automatic behavior performed in homes, schools, and communities worldwide.
Turning hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhoea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one quarter.
More hand washing with soap would make a significant contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.
GHD will be the centerpiece of a week of activities that will mobilise millions of people across five continents to wash their hands with soap.
In the long term, GHD can become a powerful platform for advocacy aimed at policy makers and key stakeholders and an occasion for concrete public commitment to actions that will spur behavior change.