Today is global Hand Washing Day. The day was originally created for children and schools, but can be celebrated by anyone promoting hand washing with soap. According to the UNICEF website, each year, over 200 million people are involved in celebrations in over 100 countries around the world. Global Hand washing is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies, and individuals.
This hand washing day was created by the Global Public-Private and took place for the first time the 15th day of October, 2008. The date was appointed by UN General Assembly in accordance with year 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation.
The aim for this great day was to; foster and support a global culture of hand washing with soap and to raise awareness about the benefits of hand washing with soap.
As much as we are always told to wash hands after a visit to the washrooms, or every time we get home from our busy schedules, very few of us ever remember to use a soap to properly clean our hands.
For starters, hand washing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhoeal 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, hand washing with soap is seldom practiced and difficult to promote.
Turning hand washing 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 diarrhoea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter.
A vast change in hand washing behaviour is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.
Global Hand washing Day focuses on children because not only do they suffer disproportionately from diarrhoeal 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 behaviours like hand washing with soap in their communities.
I have seen celebrities on the Kenyan Citizen Television cast in adverts of safeguard and dettol soaps which promote the culture of hand washing with soap in schools. I find this the quickest way to reach out to the children, who in turn will return home and teach back the society about what they have been taught.
Maybe if this method is also adapted here, children will be more than excited to be taught how to wash their hands with soap with for example Tom Close the winner of Guma Guma competition.
Here in Rwanda, global hand washing day was first celebrated in Burera district in the Northern Province 11th October, 2008. According to information from the internet sources, is that this area suffered from recurring poor hygiene related to diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.
Well, I hope this year it is celebrated country wide, because as much as children from upcountry are the ones who suffer the most because of the obvious reasons, but then even our children in towns do suffer from these diseases as well, so it is up to the entire country to be sensitised on the importance of using soap in hand washing.
I too will take part in this initiative by teaching my children and other children from my neighbourhood about the benefits of using soap in hand washing. Well, good health is in your hands!