Global Handwashing Day is a globally recognised day dedicated to increasing cognizance and understanding about the importance of washing hands with soap as a simple, easy, and effective way to avoid diseases and save lives. The handwashing day was commemorated in 2008, which was celebrated by millions of children around the world in more than 70 countries. Ever since then it is annually celebrated on 15th of October under the aegis of Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP).

Aim and Relevance

The Global Handwashing Day aims at fostering and supporting a general culture of washing hands with soap in all societies, recognising the state of handwashing in each country and increasing awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap. The day witnesses a large participation from across the globe to the tune of over 200 million people. With a similar agenda and idea, the World Heath Organisation also celebrates the World Hand Hygiene Day on 5th May every year. History stands testimony to the fact that a practice as routine as washing our hands is an integral and vital part of maintaining hygiene which possesses the power to save lives.

The Black Death of Childbed

It was in the 18th century, when the lethal fever known as the black death of childbed emerged as the leading concern of medical practitioners and scientists. Also known as the puerperal fever, it was an upsetting disease occurring in pregnant women and causing child death within the first three days of birth. It spread rapidly and created panic among the women as well as practitioners, because of its intractable nature. The disease took shape of an epidemic with almost 70 to 80% fatality rate and continued to spread until Dr Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician and scientist finally came across the remedy to the life-threatening disease after which people described him as the “saviour of mothers”.After comparing the drills and procedures of two similar institutes located in two different countries, he introduced a system where students were required to simply wash their hands with chloride of lime before entering the maternity ward. The system was introduced in 1947, and within a year, the mortality rate of the first clinic fell drastically from 98.4 to 12.7 per 1000 births.The reason behind Black Death of Childbed discovered was that the maternity wards were part of large general hospitals. Because of which, the students had to work in all facilities to include morgues, the medical/ surgical wards, and the maternity wards. So, the doctors became carriers of the decaying matter, which was responsible for the childbed fever.

Importance of Handwashing

The importance of handwashing in our daily lives is essential to avoid spreading of various germs and viruses. It was a crucial practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous infectious diseases have the capability to spread through contact with an infected person, including gastrointestinal, respiratory infections, besides COVID-19 infections. Appropriate handwashing with soap and water kills the infection causing germs from hands and effectively prevents their transmission from one person to another. It is an essential habit which must be inculcated in children from the very start of their lives. A deliberate effort must therefore be made to teach the kids, five simple steps to handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. The word must be widely spread among our colleagues, parents & caregivers, school administrators & educators and most importantly, the chefs.

Leave a Reply