World Hand Hygiene Day: Play your part by helping the poor

World Hand Hygiene Day: Play your part by helping the poor

Hand-washing has never been more in vogue than it is right now, but you might be surprised to find out how many adults don't do so regularly.

Wash hands
A little girl cleaning her hands / iStock

Six out of ten South African adults wash their hands regularly. Yes, you read right, there are still many men and women who do not practice good hand-washing hygiene.

Pharma Dynamics – a prevention-minded pharmaceutical company – revealed the results of a national poll it conducted ahead of World Hand Hygiene Day, which is commemorated on May 5. 

Despite the shocking stats, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in scores of people around the world thinking twice before leaving the bathroom without washing their hands.

Pharma Dynamics spokesperson, Nicole Jennings, says the deadly outbreak has had a profound effect on a practice that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other organisations have tried to instill among communities for decades.

READ: WHO warns 'long way to go' in coronavirus crisis

“A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene which researched handwashing practices across 51 countries between 2010 and 2013, found that on average, only 19% of people wash their hands after going to the bathroom. As a result, more than 1.6 million children under the age of five die annually from diarrhoea and pneumonia in primarily poor countries that could have been prevented through proper handwashing," she said in a statement. 

Many communities across the globe are sometimes unable to practice good hygiene as they don't have access to water and soap.

But Jennings says the coronavirus "outbreak seems to have expedited the delivery of water tanks and hygiene products to the poor and those living in remote areas around the globe, almost overnight." 

Health experts have stressed the importance of hand-washing during the pandemic as it is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and other pathogens. 

“Washing hands regularly with soap and water reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds and flu by up to 21% and gastrointestinal illnesses by 23-40%. Since COVID-19 is an ‘enveloped virus’, which has a fatty layer that helps it to survive, handwashing is key. Lathering, scrubbing and rinsing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds will remove the virus from the skin, while breaking up the envelope protecting the virus, which disables it,” Jennings said. 

ALSO READ: Coronavirus: Netcare ladies show KZN how to wash your hands properly

While local government and others are responding to the crisis, she warned that there were still millions of South Africans who don’t have access to water and hygienic sanitation.

“Without running water and soap or enough hand sanitisers, infection rates could soar among the poor." 

Jennings urged members of the public to play their part on World Hand Hygiene Day. 

"Whether it be in the form of financial donations, hand sanitisers or soap that will help to improve general hand hygiene, while making poor communities and especially those with compromised immune systems and medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, less vulnerable to the virus.

“At the start of a pandemic, when there aren’t any pharmaceutical interventions, like a vaccine, handwashing is a simple, yet effective measure that can be easily implemented to curb infections." 

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