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Today, October 15 is Global Hand Washing Day (GHD) a day set aside by the United Nations in 2008 in Stockholm to initiate Public Private Partnership for Hand Washing (PPPHW). The theme for this year is “Clean Hands Save Lives”.

Hand washing with soap and water is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent infectious diseases as diarrheal and acute respiratory infections which take lives of children in developing countries and regions of the world. Even in healthcare, hand washing is the most effective prevention of healthcare acquired infection which is very prevalent within the healthcare space.

Hand hygiene as it is also called was discovered in the 19th century by an Obstetrician called Ignaz Semmelweis while working at the University of Vienna. He discovered that there was a high difference regarding Puerperal fever in women in two different wards. A Puerperal infection otherwise known as puerperal sepsis is a condition that occurs when a new mom experiences an infection related to giving birth. The ward with the highest prevalence of Puerperal fever was the one where medical students and Physicians delivered the women while the other wards, the women were delivered by midwives.

He also saw that medical students and Physicians went directly from performing autopsies to delivering women. He decided to add washing hands with chlorinated lime solution for the medical students and Physicians before going into delivery wards. He saw that the incidence of Puerperal fever decreased significantly from 16% to 3% in the most affected ward. In the wards where the midwives delivered the women it stayed the same 7%. And this became the turning point in the healthcare sector where hand washing became credited as a very key component of infection control. Now you know why we take it so seriously.

As we mark the Global Hand Washing Day today, please remember to tell someone hand washing save lives. Educate someone to wash hands after using the toilets, wash hands before and after food, wash hands before and after touching a sick person, wash hands before and after touching a broken skin. We cannot afford to add to the statistics, let’s just wash hands because it really costs us nothing.

Enjoy the rest of the hand washing day.

Ehi Iden



About the author

Ehi Iden editor