RIYADH: The Ministry of Health (MoH) sent out millions of SMS text messages on Friday asking parents to encourage their children to wash their hands regularly.
“We have issued this message to parents to coincide with the Second Annual Global Hand Washing Day which is being observed by more than 80 countries in the world,” said Dr. Khalid Al-Mirghlani, spokesman for the Ministry of Health.
He pointed out that diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections are responsible for the deaths of more than 3.5 million children under the age of five each year.
“Water alone is not enough. Washing hands with soap and water, especially … after using the toilet and before handling food, helps reduce the incidence of diarrheal disease by more than 40 percent and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent,” he said.
“Furthermore, washing hands with soap is also being recommended as a critical action to prevent the spread of H1N1.”
Under the slogan of “Clean Hands Save Lives,” the second annual Global Hand Washing Day aims to engage schoolchildren as effective agents for change. The introduction of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools, including the washing of hands with soap, is an entry point for children to understand and then take these good hygiene practices back to their homes and communities.
Global Handwashing Day is an initiative of the Global Public-Private Partnership for Hand Washing with Soap (PPPHW), a coalition formed by the Academy for Educational Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colgate-Palmolive, International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Procter & Gamble, UNICEF, Unilever, USAID, The World Bank, the Water and Sanitation Program, and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
Al-Mirghalani noted that washing with soap or with sanitizers represents a cornerstone of public health and can be considered an affordable and accessible “do-it-yourself” vaccine.
Although soap is available in most households around the world, he said, observed rates of hand washing with soap at critical moments range from zero to 34 percent.
“For successful, and sustained behavioral change to occur, it is vital to incorporate community-based and community-sensitive approaches that understand what motivates people to change,” he said.
“Unsafe water and inadequate sanitation are often major causes of lost work and missed school days, perpetuating the cycle of economic and social stagnation in many countries.
“Investments in health, child survival, education, water supply, and sanitation are all jeopardized if there is a lack of emphasis on hand washing with soap,” he added.
The official said parents must ensure to it that their children wash their hands once they come home from school. “It is the duty of teachers to tell their children the importance of hand washing to maintain a health, environment both at school and at home,” he added.