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Students at a rural school in Cambodia use their handwashing station

October 15, 2020

Handwashing: a simple intervention that can save lives

While handwashing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of infectious disease, 40 per cent of the world’s population do not have access to soap and water at home.

On Global Handwashing Day (15 October) ChildFund Australia CEO Margaret Sheehan says the COVID-19 pandemic has been an important reminder of how a simple intervention can save lives.

“While we await the development of a safe vaccine, washing our hands with soap and water is one of the most important tools we have at our disposal to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19.

“In developing communities, handwashing can not only help protect children and families them COVID-19, but a range of potentially life-threatening diseases, including cholera, hepatitis and diarrheal infections.”

ChildFund works in partnership with local communities to overcome this challenge by constructing handwashing stations in schools, health clinics and villages.

Constructed with sinks, taps, and using water from nearby tanks, handwashing stations in rural schools not only help to stop the spread of illness among students, but are supported by health education programs that teach children how to integrate good hygiene practices into their daily routine.

Ms Sheehan said: “Most of us can simply turn on a tap and reach for the soap nearby to clean our hands multiple times throughout the day. When out and about, many of us have hand sanitiser readily available. These are things that, understandably, we take for granted.

“That is why on Global Handwashing Day, we are encouraging Australians to think about families who don’t have access to these conveniences and lend them a helping hand.

“Through our Gifts for Good catalogue, you can donate a handwashing station and give children and families the chance to better protect themselves from COVID-19 and other infectious disease.

Ms Sheehan added: “This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is ‘Hand Hygiene for All’. We know that COVID-19 is not over for anyone until it is over for everyone.

“Giving children around the globe the ability to clean their hands with soap and water is possibly one of the most important gifts we can give this year.”

Global Handwashing Day is held annually on 15 October and is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.