Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Soap and Water

A minister was asked to dinner by one of his church members. He knew she was a bad housekeeper but agreed. When he sat down at the table, he noticed that the dishes were the dirtiest that he had ever seen in his life. "Were these dishes ever washed?" he asked his hostess, running his fingers over the grit and grime.

She replied, "They're as clean as soap and water could get them". He felt a bit uncomfortable, but blessed the food anyway and started eating. It was really delicious and he said so, despite the dirty dishes. When dinner was over, the hostess took the dishes outside and yelled, "Here Soap! Here Water!"
The joke is as corny as succotash, but it may draw attention to Global Handwashing Day celebrated this year on 15 October that will provide an opportunity to motivate and mobilize millions around the world to wash their hands with soap. Global Handwashing Day is an initiative of the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW). More information about the Day can be found on their website at
Handwashing with soap may be an old idea, but it is far from universally practiced. Combining the expertise and resources of the soap industry with the facilities and resources of governments to promote handwashing with soap is one obvious solution. Whilst governments and development agencies want to combat disease and poverty, industry is interested in expanding its market.
Handwashing plays an important part in the efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals related both to: (1) health improvements, and (2) access and effective use of water supply and sanitation services, two of the five major goals agreed to by UN member countries at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002.”
The idea is to get private industry and the public sector to work together with other partners to develop programs to promote handwashing. The non-branded programs are open to all interested parties, both public and private, targeting those most at risk (mothers, children, the poor) across the whole population. Based on detailed consumer studies, these programs reach out to target audiences through mass media, direct consumer contact and government channels of communication.
In addition to the health costs, the lack of adequate sanitation facilities in schools also has an impact on access to education, with girl’s school attendance often falling off when they reach puberty where school sanitation facilities are inadequate.
Access to clean water and sanitation are fundamental to every aspect of children’s lives– including their health, their survival and their dignity – and providing all children with clean drinking water and improved sanitation and hygiene in schools would make an important contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The announcement of Global Handwashing Day was made at the annual World Water Week 2008, which was held in Stockholm from August 17 to 23.
This year’s theme; Progress and Prospects on Water: For a Clean and Healthy World included a special focus on sanitation and hygiene. 2008 is the International Year of Sanitation (IYS).
• UNICEF and partners announce Global Handwashing Day 2008
Over 170 collaborating organizations met to discuss issues around water and its impact on health, the environment, and poverty alleviation, at the annual World Water Week  held in Stockholm last August  
This year's theme; Progress and Prospects on Water: For a Clean and Healthy World includes a special focus on sanitation and hygiene. 2008 is the International Year of Sanitation (IYS).
UNICEF convened two seminars during the World Water Week, (i) The impact of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions on children, and (ii) The importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools.
Children are among the most vulnerable to the consequences of the lack of access to clean water improved sanitation and hygiene. More than 5,000 children under five die every day as a result of diarrheal diseases, caused in part by unsafe water, lack of access to basic sanitation facilities and improved hygiene. Simple behavioral changes, such as hand washing with soap, can help reduce mortality rates related to diarrheal diseases by almost 50 per cent.
Is this relevant to Pinoyland? You bet! An article in a leading daily reports: RP second largest contributor to diarrhea-related deaths
“The Philippines is second to China as the biggest contributor to the number of diarrhea-related deaths in the world… The Philippine figure is almost double that of other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Laos and Korea.
The Unicef embarked yesterday on a worldwide campaign to promote the “life-saving habit” of handwashing with soap to prevent illnesses like diarrhea, considered the second leading killer of children below five years old.
Unicef country representative Vanessa Tobin said while people wash their hands with water, “far fewer wash their hands with soap at critical moments – for example, after using the toilet, after cleaning a child and before handling food.”
“They don’t realize that hand-washing is actually a life-saving habit that can prevent the deaths of millions of children,” Tobin said during the launch of the 1st Global Handwashing Day at the Museo Pambata in Manila.” Read more ...

Twenty countries worldwide, including the Philippines, will go on an all-day hand washing event on October 15 to teach the public, especially children, the importance of regularly cleaning hands. The project will be launched following studies that non-washing of hands leads to several fatal diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, among others. World Health Organization statistics show that every year, diarrhea kills some two million children worldwide while in the Philippines alone, there are 1.5 million diarrhea cases leading to the deaths of at least 10,000 children.
Aside from this, about 10 percent of children below five years old carry symptoms of acute respiratory infections while 70 percent of pre-schoolers are host to at least a type of intestinal worm. However, officials said the number could be easily lowered if only children would be able to do the easy hygiene habit.
“Proper handwashing should be started at home. We must educate our children even at their young age the importance of handwashing,” said Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, Department of Health spokesman. But Oliveros acknowledged that many children were not able to wash their hands regularly due to lack of access to basic sanitation, with statistics pegged at almost 60 percent of observed handwashing respondents not being able to wash hands during the critical moments.
In public schools, our problem is lack of funds to build classrooms, and when they are funded no toilet facilities are included. Even when provided with toilets, running water is not available at times. But running water often floods urban areas, mercifully causing cancellation of classes


Lateef said...

Thank you for shining a light on these often underestimated and even more often unknown ills. Diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and tuberculosis kill children in masses every day - and it's sad to know that a few simple hygienic actions could prevent so much death.

orly_habari said...

Luckily, my kindergarten class taught hygiene, primarily handwashing, and I was singled out to demonstrate the procedure. She might have noticed my grimy hands and took remedial action. One of the revered unforgettable moments in my life.

France Blog said...

Simple daily gestes to prevent diseases -- so very true!

Problem is to have soap and clean water and I heard they don't abound in slum areas.

orly_habari said...

Anna, in the slums, soap is a luxury and it competes with cigarettes and food in the pitiful shopping list. Your FRANCE BLOG may be my chance to retrieve my French which was neglected after college.