Many schools in South Africa still lag behind when it comes to providing clean sanitation facilities. In most schools and households there is an absence of handwashing facilities. The Water Research Commission (WRC), in collaboration with the National Department of Health and Life4U Foundation, visited Mmamarumo Primary School in Hammanskraal, to commemorate Global Handwashing Day, held annually on 15 October.
Water-saving techniques and handwashing activities shared with the school equipped the learners and educators with knowledge for building their own tool for washing hands, the ’Tippy Tap’, using material from recycled waste.
A home-made handwashing device could help schools and households deal with the sanitation challenge.
The Global Hand Washing campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of hand washing with soap as a key approach to disease prevention. The campaign aims to raise awareness and mobilise communities, households, hospitals, schools, and workplaces to wash hands with soap to curb life-threatening diseases.
While addressing the school, Ms Belinda Makhofola, Director at the National Department of Health said, “Demonstration of the proper hand washing method is meant to help reduce mortality rates related to diarrhoeal diseases by introducing simple behavioural changes, such as hand washing with soap, which according to research can reduce the rate of diarrhoeal infections by almost 50% and of acute respiratory diseases by up to 25%. When practised by mothers and birth attendants it can reduce neonatal mortality rates by almost 40%”.
“Handwashing with soap has been proven as the single most effective way to prevent diarrhoea and other hygiene-related diseases, via automatic behaviours performed in homes, schools, and communities,” Ms Makhofola said.
In 2009, the WRC commissioned a study to develop a scientific method to assess the effectiveness of hand washing and hand hygiene behaviours. This research resulted in the development of a hand hygiene assessment framework.
According to the WRC study, the manner in which an individual washed their hands (hand hygiene technique) is influenced by factors such as individual and environmental behaviours.
Dr Nonhlanhla Kalebaila, Research Manager responsible for the water quality research portfolio at the WRC said, “The ‘cleanliness of an individual’s hands (i.e. the bacterial count on an individual’s hands) would be determined by the manner in which the individual washed their hands and the also taking into account the bacterial counts in the water used for washing.”
According to the WRC study, household living standards, availability and type of technologies required for appropriate hand hygiene and an individual’s hand hygiene knowledge are among the factors contributing to hand hygiene behaviour.
The following steps should be followed when washing hands with soap and water.
Steps to thorough handwashing
Step 1: Wet hands and apply soap well, then rub hands together.
Step 2: Rub the back of both hands.
Step 3: Interlace fingers and rub hands together.
Step 4: Interlock fingers and rub the back of fingers on both hands.
Step 5: Rub thumbs in a rotating manner followed by the area between index fingers and thumb for both hands.
Step 6: Clean underneath the nails, rinse soap and wipe with paper towel or clean towel.
Washing hands constantly, especially after using the toilet, will prevent diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever and trachoma.
For more information on health and water visit our Knowledge Hub: www.wrc.org.za