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Diarrhoea Kills Around 1 Lakh Children In India Every Year: Are Your Kids Following Proper Hand Hygiene?

Diarrhoea Kills Around 1 Lakh Children In India Every Year: Are Your Kids Following Proper Hand Hygiene?

Instances of infectious diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and hepatitis can be reduced significantly just by maintaining hand hygiene, say health experts.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : May 6, 2022 4:30 PM IST

Health experts around the world have been highlighting the importance of hand hygiene in the post-pandemic era. Doctors gathered at the second edition of Hand Hygiene Summit, organised on World Hand Hygiene Day 2022 (May 5) in New Delhi by Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council, also reiterated the need for creating awareness on handwashing to reduce the incidences of infections that are killing lakhs of children in India.

They said that irregular and inappropriate hand washing practises lead to many communicable diseases including diarrhoea, cholera and hepatitis in India. According to data from the National Health Mission, around 1 lakh children in India die because of diarrhoea every year, they noted.

Our hands are the most important pathway of germs transmission and thus hand hygiene is the most critical step to avoid infections, the doctors stated, emphasising that instances of infectious diseases can be reduced significantly just by maintaining hand hygiene.

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Do you know the consequences of lack of hand hygiene?

One of the consequences of lack of hand hygiene is transmission of diarrhoeal infection in the community and this can be prevented to a large extent if all of them practise correct and regular hand hygiene, said Dr Rama Ranjan Pati, Director, All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health.

He continued, "We have knowledge about hand hygiene, and we also know that proper hand hygiene prevents the transmission of the infection. But this knowledge doesn't reach the rural communities. We need to create awareness about hand hygiene and ensure that it inculcates into a habit. This is one challenging task for us. A multi-sectoral approach has to be taken to mitigate the heavy toll lack of hand hygiene is creating on the healthcare industry."

Sharing some references from the rural area where their organisation has been carrying out many outreach programs, Dr Pati further stated that they have witnessing some changes, including a remarkable reduction in diarrhoea cases, after the religious practices of hand washing being observed in the pandemic era.

Dr. N. B. Mazumdar, Chairman, International Academy of Environmental Sanitation and Public Health, New Delhi, expressed that to eliminate diarrhoea from its roots, fear needs to be instilled in people's mind by making them aware about the consequences of lack of hand hygiene.

"Sometime back when the Covid was at its peak, people were more cautious and particular about hand hygiene. We have seen how plague created havoc in Surat and how people adhered to all the precautions to eliminate the infection from its roots. What's important here is people's psyche. When the fear factor is there in the mindset then we work according to that. Apart from efforts of government, NGOs, private companies, health departments, education about the impact of good hand hygiene is the most crucial aspect. If we know the implication, people can relate to it and thereby the target of zero diarrhoea cases and deaths can be achieved soon," asserted Dr Mazumdar.

The three pillars to achieve zero diarrhoea

Kamal Narayan, CEO, IHW Council, noted that three pillars are required to achieve the aim of zero diarrhoea: good facilities, efficacy and awareness.

He said, "Multiple researches have proved that the simple practice of washing hands with soap and water regularly especially after using toilets or before eating has the potential of reducing over half of childhood deaths under the age of 5 that are caused due to pneumonia and diarrhoea. Therefore, good hand hygiene is the first line of defence against diarrhoea, and indeed against many other harmful germs and viruses that exist. Kids should be taught in schools about hand hygiene practices and even parents should play an important role to ensure that the kids are following the hand washing practices at home."

The experts also pointed out that the policy makers must work hard to ensure people don't become complacent about hand washing or sanitising, once the pandemic eventually eases.

It has been observed that it's too easy to slip back into old habits. If people don't take a proactive approach towards hand washing, then the contagious chain of infection can never be broken they concluded.

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