No child should suffer from preventable diseases

No child should suffer from preventable diseases

How handwashing with soap can help save lives

Many diseases, including diarrhoea, are transmitted by a failure to practice basic hygiene. Diarrhoea is the third leading cause of deaths among children under five and presents a major public health problem in South Africa1.

The 2014 General Household Survey (GHS) recorded more than 60 000 childhood diarrhoea cases per month, with approximately 9 000 child deaths in the same year2.

Research shows that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent diarrhoea and can reduce diarrhoea deaths by more than 40%3.

The challenge is that handwashing with soap is not commonly practised. The National Hand Hygiene Behaviour Change Strategy (2016 – 2022) suggests that handwashing with soap at critical times is only adhered to approximately 5-15% of the time1.

“One of the major risk factors in the spread of diarrhoea is that people do not follow good hygiene habits,” said Dr Susan Louw of the National Health Laboratory Service. “We can change this behaviour by explaining the value of handwashing, and by making it easier for children to wash their hands.”

“It is unfortunate that children have to suffer from diseases such as diarrhoea, which can be easily be prevented by washing hands with soap,” says Rajeev Khandelwal, Regional Director Africa, RB Health. “The private sector has a responsibility to help alleviate this burden of disease, especially in developing markets. Dettol is a good example of a brand that supports and puts investment behind hand hygiene behaviour change in South Africa with its school hygiene programmes”.

Since 2006, Dettol has reached millions of children in South Africa with hand-hygiene promotion programmes that teach the importance of washing hands in preventing illnesses and how to effectively wash hands with soap and water.

In partnership with the Department of Basic Education, Dettol has launched the Good Health Is In Your Hands campaign in October, focusing on hand-hygiene behaviour change. The campaign involves mass media communication aimed at encouraging handwashing with soap and water at critical times and encourages the public to Pledge to wash hands with soap and water.

Pledging is free at www.Dettol.co.za and each pledge received will help to provide resources to educate a child on hand hygiene.

Inspired by the internationally promoted Tippy Tap, Dettol will also be visiting schools and distributing 1 000 cost-effective handwashing stations to schools in October. These stations or kits are created from locally sourced materials, including a two-litre bottle with cap and a tube to funnel water together with posters that guide learners on how to wash hands effectively.

The initiative is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG Goal 3 aims to end preventable deaths of newborns and under-5 children by 2030 by 1) reducing newborn mortality to 12 per 1 000 live births in every country; and 2) cutting under-five mortality to 25 per 1 000 live births in every country.

  1. National hand hygiene behaviour change strategy 2016 – 2020
  2. Statistics South Africa 2010. General Household Survey
  3. Curtis V, Cairncross S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. Lancet Infect Dis 2003: 3: 275-81.

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