Tomorrow over 200 million people in over 100 countries will celebrate Global Handwashing Day. Children in schools around the world will come together to wash their hands and to spread the word about how handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet is a cheap and effective way to prevent disease.
Studies have found that when kids regularly wash their hands with soap,diarrhea deaths are cut by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections are cut by one-quarter. Dr. Val Curtis from the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also found that handwashing is associated with a 48% reduction in severe enteric infections, including typhoid.
The driving theme for Global Handwashing Day is handwashing in schools. The reason is twofold. First, children suffer disproportionately from diseases like rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and typhoid, which can all be prevented with proper sanitation and hygiene. Second, research shows that children can be powerful agents for changing behaviors like handwashing with soap in their communities.
As with diarrhea and respiratory diseases, the greatest burden of typhoid fever is among school and pre-school-aged children living in areas without access to safe water or improved sanitation. In populations where the rights of access to basic sanitation have yet to be addressed, vaccination and behaviors like handwashing can be effective and affordable interventions to control typhoid fever and other enteric diseases.
“The Coalition against Typhoid is proud to support the efforts of Global Handwashing Day,” says Christopher Nelson, the Director of the Coalition against Typhoid Secretariat at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “Handwashing is a highly effective method to prevent transmission of typhoid fever and other enteric diseases.”
Check out an article in the Washington Post Kids Post for a few fun facts from this year's and past Global Handwashing Days.