Global Hand-washing Day – Regular hand-washing keeps viruses at bay

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Photo: Photo by Farooq Khan

Clean hands prevent the spread of diseases and save lives. That is the main reason we must regularly wash our hands with soap and water to keep them clean and healthy at all times. Handwashing with soap and water is an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases.

Hands are the most common highways for the transmissions and spread of bacteria and viruses that cause diseases resulting in people being hospitalized for treatment and at worst death. In our daily activities and routines, we usually touch many shared surfaces which makes us susceptible to contracting different forms of viruses, thus making it critical to frequently wash our hands to prevent us contracting and spreading diseases.

The regular and proper washing of hands is so important to save lives that in 2008, the United Nations proclaimed 15 October as Global Handwashing Day as an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases. This year, the Global Handwashing Day is celebrated under the theme “Hand Hygiene for All” which is a call to make hand hygiene a reality for all. It is a call to create a culture of regular handwashing as hand hygiene is everybody’s business.

Global Handwashing Day is a reminder for all the world citizens to wash hands regularly with soap, especially after using the toilet, changing baby’s nappies, touching waste, before and after preparing food and after touching any surfaces.

Global Handwashing Day is now more important than ever before, especially as we are faced with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. One of the ways to prevent the spread of this killer virus is to regularly wash our hands with soap and water or sanitize them with alcohol-based sanitizers. This is critical as our hands are frequently exposed to germs and viruses as we use them to touch all kinds of things.

Hand hygiene is a central part of the response to Covid-19. Therefore regular handwashing must be a habit and a norm.

For hand hygiene and preventing the spread of diseases from being a reality, governments must play a critical role in ensuring reliable water supply to communities, especially those in rural areas. The South African government have made noticeable provisions as part of the Covid-19 interventions by providing water tanks and tankers to ensure easy access to water for communities in rural and informal areas. This is commendable, and the government must continue reliably supplying water to the communities to entrench the culture of handwashing and make hand hygiene a norm.

As we become a nation that prioritizes regular and proper handwashing, it is also crucial that we do so in a manner that promotes water conservation as South Africa is a water-scarce and dry country. As we make hand hygiene a norm to prevent the spread of diseases, we must also make water conservation a norm and use the available water in a wise and sparing manner to ensure a reliable supply and water security.

Clean and healthy hands mean healthy communities and a healthy nation, so let us all adopt hand hygiene as our healthy habit and kick away bacteria, viruses and diseases.

It is in our hands to contain the coronavirus and to prevent the spread of other diseases, so let us regularly wash and keep them clean and healthy at all times.