Make hand-washing a habit to keep diseases away
ISLAMABAD, October 15, 2010: This year, the theme of Global Handwashing Day -- ‘More than Just a Day’ -- aimed to make the simple, life-saving practice of washing hands a regular habit long after the sun sets on October 15.
Global Handwashing Day partners promoted this behavioural change not only by organising activities in more than 80 countries to raise awareness of the benefits of handwashing, but by ensuring that schools and communities have the support they need to make the practice routine. Toward this end, the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap has been rolling out new tools to help developing countries transform handwashing from a distracted daily act to a positive habit.
Each year, diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections are responsible for the deaths of more than 3.5 million children under the age of five. In Pakistan, diarrhoea is the leading cause of mortality for children under 5 (where 116,013 children under the age of 5 die due diarrhoea each year, translating into the loss of life of 13 Pakistani children per hour. Children also suffer disproportionately from sickness also due to diarrhoeal disease with almost 25 million case reported annually. Washing hands with soap and water, especially at the critical times -- after using the toilet and before handling food -- helps reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by more than 40 per cent, yet this simple behaviour is not practiced regularly.
In fact initial results of a recent survey conducted with Unicef support in 100 public and private schools in Islamabad and Rawalpindi indicates that soap was available in a mere 8% of government schools and 42% of private schools. Where not available, a majority of students reported either not washing their hands at all or washing with just water.
Additionally, in the aftermath of the unprecedented flooding that devastated large areas of the country and directly affected over 20 million people, the incidence of water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases, including acute diarrhoea, among the affected population is alarming and several cases of cholera have been confirmed. In this environment, handwashing with soap is vital to decrease the mortality and morbidity of affected populations, in particular women and children.