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Global Handwashing Day Promotes Health and Need for Safe Water

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular handwashing could prevent more than 1 million deaths annually. In some regions, this is a problem that can be solved through better hygiene education. However, in other areas, handwashing is limited due to a lack of safe water. In honor of Global Handwashing Day on October 15, Water Mission joins the Global Handwashing Partnership and others around the world in raising awareness of this important health issue.

The World Health Organization’s latest global report cites that 2 billion people worldwide, or one in four, still lack access to basic hygiene services and are unable to wash their hands with soap and water at home. This often leads to serious health concerns as people contract and spread diseases due to unclean hands.

Regular handwashing, especially before preparing and eating meals and after restroom use, is considered one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of illness.

The health of an individual community relies on awareness and practice of healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) behaviors,” said Alex Wann, Water Mission Senior Program Design Specialist.

“Water Mission is committed to addressing this need globally. We use a variety of approaches, including the use of local volunteers known as WASH Promotors who are trained to teach healthy WASH behaviors in their neighborhoods, schools, and hospitals. These trainings empower communities with the knowledge of where germs originate in the environment and how to stop their spread with effective handwashing behaviors at key moments. The WASH promoters also provide instruction on key health behaviors like hygienic food service, waste management, and bathing, to promote ongoing health in the community.”

In a nine-month study conducted by the CDC, children who practiced regular handwashing “reached developmental milestones 6 months earlier than those who did not.”

Each Water Mission project has the goal of both meeting the immediate need of safe water, but also providing community development resources that will lead to ongoing life transformation.

To ensure we were providing the resources needed, we began collecting data to measure the change in handwashing behaviors in communities with Water Mission projects. The survey assesses the level of knowledge and the resources required for people to wash their hands at key times to promote health. Since 2017, we have collected over 20,000 survey responses in 100 communities across eight countries.

“We administer the survey prior to implementing a safe water project, another survey when implementation begins, and then a final survey up to one year after,” continued Wann, “our data shows that communities score moderately before Water Mission’s program begins and score highly one year after safe water starts flowing in the community and hygiene awareness campaigns have been completed. We are encouraged by this progress and remain committed to implementing programs that address this critical need for community health and to serve these communities with love, excellence, and integrity.”

Although progress is being made, there are still 2 billion who lack access to safe water and struggle with sanitation constraints. Learn more about the global water crisis and how the Water Mission team serves our global neighbors, or follow us on social media at @water_mission on Twitter and Instagram or @WaterMissions on Facebook.

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