Adwoamanu’s Weblog

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Remember to wash your hands with soap.

By James Harry Obeng

The past week has been exciting, following the successful launch of the manifesto of the National Democratic Congress [NDC]. Whereas some have touted the launch as much late in coming, considering the lead that the party took in electing its presidential candidate, the bigwigs in the party have also been in their elements, counteracting claims by their arch-opponents about their manifesto.

In fact, their colleagues in the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), led by the National chairman, Peter Mac Manu, are doubting the originality of the policy document and have accused the NDC of a more serious and dishonest form of “stealing”, known as plagiarism, without acknowledging or crediting the original source, that is, the NPP manifesto.

So the NDC would also prove beyond every recognizable doubt that Nana Akufo−Addo’s cosseted slogan “Moving Ghana forward” was rather plagiarized from the NDC as the cover page of the party’s 1996 manifesto attests to.

Interesting indeed! The million-dollar question now remains who is actually “stealing” whose ideas. That is politics as defined in Ghana for you. Anyway, it all adds to the beauty of democracy of which the country has become a model on the continent of Africa, and around the globe.

Now, join me in dissecting the importance of last Wednesday, October 15, to every Ghanaian. It was the Global Handwashing Day (GHD). But before I fully set in gear to write on this day, let me inquire from my readers if any have ever ate his feces or that of someone before. Excuse me for being impish today, but the fact remains that you may be eating something more than food.

This is because our hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact (like handshakes) or indirectly via surfaces. When not washed properly with soap, these hands that have been in contact with human or animal feces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions, and contaminated foods or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to unwitting hosts. Already, medical research shows that a tiny gram of feces contain over thousand viruses and about ten thousand bacteria.

Washing hands with water alone is therefore not enough in dealing with disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Rather using soap works by breaking down the grease and dirt that carry most germs, facilitating the rubbing and friction that dislodge them and leaving hands smelling pleasant. The clean smell and feeling that soap creates are incentives for its use.

This however informs the relevance of the GHD which challenge is to transform hand-washing with soap from an abstract good idea into an automatic behaviour performed in homes, schools, and communities worldwide. Turning hand-washing with soap before eating and after using the lavatory into an ingrained habit among Ghanaians could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one quarter, according to Ms Theodora Adomako Agyei, of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA).

Hand-washing with soap would also make a significant contribution to meeting the Millenium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two thirds by 2015. Already, more than 3.5 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhea and pneumonia. Research also shows that with proper use, soaps are effective at rinsing away disease-causing germs, preventing skin and eye infections, intestinal worms, SARS and Avian Flu as well as preventing the spread of diseases in overcrowded, highly contaminated slum environments.

In Ghana, the GHD aimed to raise awareness of the link between proper hand-washing with soap and the prevention of diarrheal and respiratory infections, focusing on school children as change initiators who would take messages back to their communities, though the involvement of everybody is required to make this objective materialize.

So as you go on with your routine daily activities, always remember the importance of washing your hands with soap by reflecting on these words of Ms Theodora; “Hand-washing with soap is the single most cost effective health intervention when compared with other frequently funded health intervention. A $3.35 investment in hand-washing brings the same health benefits as an $11.00 investment in latrine construction, a 200.00 investment in household water supply and an investment of thousands of dollars in immunization.”

Always, remember to wash your hands with soap before and after eating, and after visiting the toilet and encourage others, especially kids, to follow suit. Let us make a habit because it saves life!


October 16, 2008 - Posted by | Features

1 Comment »

  1. […] Remember to wash your hands with soap. By adwoamanu Washing hands with water alone is therefore not enough in dealing with disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Rather using soap works by breaking down the grease and dirt that carry most germs, facilitating the rubbing and friction that … Adwoamanu's Weblog – […]

    Pingback by Current Health News » Why are Antibiotic-Resistant Disease Killing Both Humans and Swine? | October 16, 2008 | Reply

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