Developing a daily hand washing routine, using soap and running water, has been shown to be among the most effective and inexpensive ways to help prevent common infections. However, despite its life saving potential, many people have yet to adopt a simple daily hand washing routine.
With this in mind, health soap manufacturer, Lifebuoy launched a global Adopt-a-Village initiative. This programme is a long-term strategy which aims to improve hygiene standards in rural communities by providing hand washing education programmes to local schools and clinics, with a special focus on learners, nursing staff, patients and new mothers.
Lifebuoy South Africa identified a community in Ubombo, KwaZulu-Natal, near the Bethesda Hospital, to launch the local initiative. The Lifebuoy team, together with ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka, visited the community late last year to kick off the programme by creating awareness around improving hygiene standards and highlighting the challenges rural communities face in order to ensure every child living there reaches their fifth birthday.
As part of the Adopt-a-Village programme and a first for South Africa, Lifebuoy has committed to partner with Bethesda Hospital on a Neonatal programme, which highlights the connection between newborn survival and promoting hygienic hand washing habits. The Neonatal programme aims to reduce preventable deaths from common infections and accelerate progress towards the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to reduce childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
To date 300 nurses and mothers at Bethesda Hospital have successfully completed the hand washing training. Further to this, Lifebuoy targeted five primary schools in the area where a total of 1496 school children were educated on the importance of hand hygiene.
According to Ashveer Mahabeer, Brand Building Manager of Lifebuoy, "The Neonatal programme will educate and encourage mothers and birth attendants to adopt handwashing with soap routines to prevent infections such as pneumonia and diarrhoea amongst newborns " a time when babies are particularly vulnerable to catching life-threatening infections. In this way we can improve neonatal survival rates and put more children on the path to reaching their fifth birthday - a significant milestone that millions of children don't reach ever year."
New mothers are shown the benefits of hand washing before handling a baby especially in the case of preterm babies, during the first week while the umbilical cord is still attached, when anyone around them has a cough/cold and after returning from the outdoors.
The potential impact of the Neonatal and schools programme in South Africa is clear following the recent perception study conducted by Lifebuoy, which found that there was a high incidence of everyday illness amongst children (0 -15 years old) and shows that hand washing with soap during the key occasions can cut the incidence (and costs) of these everyday and often preventable infections, especially incidence of diarrhoeal disease by almost half.
Lifebuoy's commitment to change hand washing behaviour was strengthened after a real-life clinical study (Mumbai 2009) clearly showed that families who washed their hands five times a day at the key occasions - when handling food (specifically mealtimes), after a visit to the bathroom and when in the shower/ bath - had 25% fewer episodes of diarrhoea and 25% fewer days off sick compared to a control group. Lifebuoy aims to make a real difference by creating accessible hygiene products (soap) and promoting healthy hygiene routines, within predominantly high risk communities, to change the hand washing behaviour of 20 million South Africans by 2015.
Dr Kelly Gates, 2012 Rural Doctor of the Year recipient from Bethesda Hospital commented, -We welcome all initiatives to support the community and improve hygiene standards, especially programmes to educate and create awareness amongst our nursing staff and mothers as they motivate change within the community as a whole. Programmes to assist with the prevention of the spread of diarrhoeal infections are especially important as we can see from the outbreak in Durban last year the impact that the spread of infection can have on lives and resources."
"We are passionate about the well-being of South Africans, which is why we are committed to teaching people to wash their hands with soap and running water for approximately 30 seconds especially during the five key occasions. We'll work with mothers, doctors and schools to spread these messages that a seemingly simple action can have such a large impact, eradicating germs and illnesses along the way, - concludes Mahabeer.
Article courtesy: SA Good News