Millions of children in 20 countries across 5 continents are joining hands to encourage handwashing with soap on the first-ever Global Handwashing Day on 15th October 08
|The first-ever Global Handwashing Day is revolving around schools and children as children suffer disproportionately from diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases and deaths. According to WHO, diarrhoea kills almost 2 million children worldwide every year. In the UK, infections that cause diarrhoea, vomiting, common colds and flu are responsible for the loss of thousands of school days each year. Hand hygiene is the single most important way of reducing infection and preventing its spread. |
Schools have an important role to play in teaching and encouraging handwashing from an early age and ensuring that they provide access to appropriate handwashing and hand drying facilities. Handwashing habits learnt at school can last a lifetime.
Washing hands after using the toilet and before eating, along with thorough and regular cleaning of surfaces that harbour germs from faeces, colds and flu (door handles, taps and toilet flush handles are particular hot spots for harbouring germs), are important measures for reducing sickness rates for all schools.
It's all too easy to lay the blame at children for not washing their hands. However, sinks or taps out of action, lack of soap and hand drying facilities (or grungy soap bars and slow and useless hand dryers) can prevent hand washing from happening. Out of the way facilities, insufficient time within the school day, smelly and dirty toilet blocks that children prefer to avoid (or are locked) and vandalism and the congregation of gangs are also to blame. These factors also prevent children from going to the toilet to relieve themselves in the first place, leading to a whole catalogue of problems - and misery.
The report into the E-Coli outbreak in South Wales in September 2005 that left one school child dead, found that hygiene standards were ‘below what was required to prevent disease transmission.’ Welsh inspectors (Estyn) found that toilets in half of secondary schools and a quarter of primary schools inspected in Wales were dirty or unacceptable.
Professor Mike Catchpole, director of the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections, says, "It is well known that hand washing is one of the most important ways of controlling the spread of infections, especially those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting.”
The HPA's monitoring of infections over recent weeks suggests that cases of the winter vomiting bug (norovirus) are rising and that the annual vomiting bug season is likely to have begun. The virus is the most common cause of gastrointestinal disease in the UK with peak activity in terms of numbers of cases and outbreaks during the winter months, from October to March. It has been estimated that between 600,000 and a million people in the UK are affected each year.
Professor Catchpole said: "Norovirus is highly infectious and easily spread in settings where people are in close contact with one another so good hygiene, including frequent handwashing, is really important." (BBC News Online)
In January this year, a school in Scotland (George Watson's College in Edinburgh) introduced gel washes in key parts of the school to prevent the winter vomiting bug. Gareth Edwards, school principal, explained that the measure was introduced in response to fears that the virulent virus would affect school attendance.
"We thought we would need to do something so we got together - nurses, cleaners and teaching staff - and came up with this solution of putting sanitising gel dispensers around the school, especially on the way to the refectory where the children are going to eat.
"It's a low cost option, it seems to be a common sense solution and we have seen a decline in the number of children being off school with infections and bugs."
Everyone was gradually getting into the habit of using the dispensers regularly, he added, and pupils said they found them convenient and easy to use. (BBC News Online).
Bog Standard campaign 15 October 08
For further information on Global Handwashing Day see www.globalhandwashingday.org
Global Handwashing Day spotlights the important issue in the year that the UN General Assembly has designated the International Year of Sanitation to promote improved hygiene practices and draw attention to the world’s enormous sanitation challenges.
The Bog Standard website contains:
information and activities for teaching handwashing
practical resources for schools on cleaning and hygiene and checklists for schools to use
activities to use with school children
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