Handwashing Day: How cleaner hands can fight infections, save lives

World Handwashing Day

Health experts have said proper hand hygiene can be a life saver and the easiest way to fight off deadly infections.

This was the message communicated to Nigerians during the 2018 Global Handwashing Day themed “Clean hands: healthy future”.

The event, which was held in Abuja on October 15, was aimed at motivating and mobilising Nigerians to improve hand hygiene habits.

The campaign, an initiative of Dettol, was also dedicated to raising awareness of hand washing with soap as a key approach to good hygiene and disease prevention.

It was initiated to reduce childhood mortality rate as well as respiratory and diarrheal diseases through simple behavioural changes, such as hand washing with soap.

Below are five lessons derived from the global hand washing day event:


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1. Hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhea cause one in five Nigerian children to die each year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), over 150,000 children die in Nigeria from poor hand hygiene.

2. Nigerians are negligent on the practice of hand washing until a credible threat presents itself. This is an habit that must stop and hand washing should be made an integral part of us taking care of ourselves. A good example was the Ebola outbreak of 2014 where simple hand washing could have saved countless lives.

3. On a daily basis, we constantly interact with microbes all around us through the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. These microbes are so tiny that they cannot be seen by the naked eyes and a majority of them cause diseases.

4. The importance of teaching children the benefits of hand washing is paramount; children are the most susceptible to numerous diseases such as influenza, chicken pox, diarrhea etc. School programmes where children are taught the importance of hand washing before the preparation of meal, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet, etc.

5. The practice of hand hygiene is the simplest and most effective way of preventing infections, which will further help to reduce the death rate in any community.

For healthcare personnel, there are “five moments” for performing hand hygiene: before and after touching a patient, before a clean procedure, after exposure to body fluids, after touching a patient and after touching a patient’s surroundings.

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