Proper handwashing saves lives
Ghana suffered its worst cholera nightmare in 2014, recording 28,975 cases, with 243 deaths in 130 out of the 216 districts in all 10 regions.
Despite the cases that year and the fact that the cause of the infections was made clear, the country still has to grapple with cholera, especially during the rainy season.
The spread of cholera has always been due to the prevalence of unhygienic conditions and experts say if one is attacked by cholera, it means he or she has ingested food or water contaminated with the bacterium called Vibrio cholera.
It also simply means the person has ingested faeces, which is why it is very important that the hand is thoroughly washed with soap before food, water or anything to be ingested is touched.
The 2014 cholera outbreak that claimed many lives was traced to a 10-year-old girl from Agboba in the Ashiedu Keteke Sub-metropolis, which is why children especially must be taught the proper way of washing the hands and keeping the environment clean at all times.
Today, October 15, 2018, is being marked worldwide as Global Handwashing Day (GHD) and it is a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
Everyone washes his or her hands when it is soiled, but the issue is how it is done. Many assume that once the hands or fingers are dipped into water, that takes care of the dirt or germs.
Unknowingly, therefore, diseases have been spread because someone’s hands were not washed properly.
Handwashing with soap is a "do-it-yourself vaccine" that prevents infections and saves lives.
Hygiene experts advise that the hands must be washed well and thoroughly with soap or in its absence ashes or any other substance that can adequately kill all the unseen bacteria, viruses and germs that may be on one’s fingers and hands.
Washing of the hands must be especially done at critical times, such as after using the toilet, before eating or touching food, under running water and with soap.
The theme for this year’s commemoration: “Clean hands – A recipe for health”, focuses on the links between handwashing and food – including food hygiene and nutrition. Handwashing is an important part of keeping food safe, preventing diseases and helping children to grow strong.
Connecting handwashing to an existing habit – like a meal – is a great way to form proper handwashing habits. This year’s theme, therefore, reminds us to make handwashing a part of every meal, which most people observe from their youth but in the wrong way.
Research has proved that handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia which are the leading causes of death among children under the age of five.
Simply washing the hands can save lives, cut diarrhoea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter. Handwashing with soap impacts not just health and nutrition but also education, economics and equity.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 50 per cent of cases of child under-nutrition are due to repeated diarrhoea and intestinal infections caused by poor sanitation and hygiene conditions or the lack of safe water.
If disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites on a person’s hands enter his mouth, they can travel down to the gut. There, they may damage the body’s ability to absorb and use nutrients from food.
Germs may directly consume nutrients before the body can use them and damage the intestinal lining.
We must all, therefore, religiously observe strict and proper handwashing at critical times to not only stay healthy but also stay alive and ensure same for our families. That, definitely, will also reduce the country’s health burden drastically.