Today we commemorate the 5th anniversary of ‘Global Handwashing Day’. This day aims to Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap. It was introduced 5 years ago on 15 October, 2008 to reduce mortality rates related to diarrhoea diseases by introducing simple behavioural changes, such as hand washing with soap, which according to research can reduce rate by almost 50%
Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths. Yet, despite its lifesaving potential, it is seldom practiced and difficult to promote.
Turning handwashing 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 diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter. A vast change in handwashing behavior is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.
Global Handwashing Day focuses on children because not only do they suffer disproportionately from diarrheal and respiratory diseases and deaths, but research shows that children – the segment of society so often the most energetic, enthusiastic, and open to new ideas – can also be powerful agents for changing behaviors like handwashing with soap in their communities
Handwashing is important because:
Diarrhoea and Pneumonia are the two leading causes of infant mortality, accounting for 29% of under 5 deaths globally – over 2 million lives. Every year 759,000 under 5 children die of Diarrhoea and 1,242 million of Pneumonia. India at 386,600, has the highest number of diahhorea related child deaths. There is consistent evidence that handwashing with soap at critical times – before eating/ preparing food, after using the toilet, can reduce diarrhoeal risk by almost half. Hnadwashing can also reduce risk of Pneumonia and other Acute Respiratory Infections by 23%. New studies suggest that handwashing promotion in schools can play a role in reducing absenteeism among primary school children.