And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. [Mark 7:4]
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CLEANLINESS IS IN OUR HANDS
When John Wesley famously said “cleanliness is next to godliness”, he wasn’t speaking of handwashing but he may well could have.
Like any world religion, ablutions come in the form of ritual purity with real life, earthly consequences.
Which means one of the simplest ways to save a life is literally at our fingertips.
Simple Handwashing with soap can save a million lives per year
Handwashing with soap can reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases by approximately 50%
Mothers who wash their hands with soap can reduce the risk of newborn death by 44%
Handwashing with soap can reduce the number of pneumonia-related infections in children under the age of five by 50%
Providing soap in schools can reduce school absenteeism due to diarrhea by 30%
Handwashing with soap is the single most effective and inexpensive WASH intervention for preventing diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, accounting for 3.5 million child deaths annually
This year, Global Handwashing Day, October 15, focuses on food hygiene because up to 70% of cases of diarrhea may be associated with poor food hygiene. Beyond washing our hands, keeping utensils and dishes clean, properly storing and reheating food, boiling water and milk where needed, and thoroughly cooking food make us all safer.
Teaching proper handwashing with soap is fundamental to improving nutrition in developing countries, in large part because it prevents diarrheal diseases that heavily contribute to the preventable deaths of children under five, as well as undernutrition that carries with it lifelong consequences. Chronic diarrhea prevents little bodies from effectively absorbing nutrients and children suffering from chronic diarrhea will often eat less. Undernourished children are also more likely to develop diarrhea – it’s a cycle that’s vicious and devastating. Undernutrition in the first 1,000 days of life can irreversibly harm physical growth, the immune system and brain development.
The lack of handwashing is also a problem in the U.S.
Research suggests just 37 percent of men and 61 percent of women wash their hands after using the bathroom.
That’s not a good lesson for our children. And it means all those germs leave the loo with us, land on credit cards, cell phones, computer keyboards, grocery carts, doorknobs, and even money.
A 2017 study found hundreds of species of microorganisms on U.S. dollars.
U.S. foreign assistance can help foster a global and local culture of handwashing with soap, raise awareness about its life-saving promise, and cost-effective impact.
This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is Clean Hands – A Recipe for Health, a reminder that disease prevention is quite literally within reach.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that tomorrow is World Food Day! Learn more here.
When cholera broke out in Haiti in 2016, Food for the Hungry (FH) quickly engaged community groups lead by mothers, as well as community health workers and students, to stop its deadly spread in the two regions where FH was working.
They did so, not with technology, but with soap. Staff conducted hygiene trainings and distributed hygiene kits with soap and water purification tablets to affected populations.
Due to FH's rapid response which stressed handwashing and provided access to safe water, no cases of cholera were reported in the areas where FH worked.