New Delhi: Simple act of handwashing using soap and water can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36 per cent, according to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent the transmission of pathogens including COVID-19 in hospitals and elsewhere. To stress on the need for handwashing among health care workers and other people around the world, WHO started a global campaign called “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” in 2009. This campaign is celebrated annually as World Hand Hygiene Day 2021 on May 5.
While talking about hand hygiene in a video message for the World Hand Hygiene Day 2021, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Deputy Director-General said,
Effective hand hygiene prevents any infection acquired in health care, the spread of antimicrobial resistance and other emerging health threats.
Antimicrobial resistance, according to WHO, occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
World Hand Hygiene Day 2021 Theme: Achieving Hand Hygiene At The Point Of Care
On the importance and theme of the World Hand Hygiene Day 2021, global hand hygiene expert Professor Didier Pittet highlighted in WHO’s video message that by increasing hand hygiene, it is possible to prevent up to 50 per cent of avoidable infections transmitted at the point of care. A point of care is the place where three elements come together: the patient, the health care worker, and treatment involving contact with the patient, as per WHO. Professor Pittet said,
Infections acquired at the point of care affect millions of patients and health workers every year. Yet, compliance with hand hygiene best practices is only around 10 per cent during care of critically ill patients in low-income countries while in high-income countries is rarely exceeds 60 to 70 per cent. The most vulnerable community around the world lack access to basic hand hygiene facilities. A WHO report published last year shows that one in four health care facilities lack basic water facilities and one in three health care facilities lack hand hygiene facilities at the point of care.
He further said that to help bridge these gaps this year, WHO’s ‘Save Lives: Clean Your Hands’ campaign focuses on achieving effective hand hygiene action at the point of care. He asserted,
Hand Hygiene- this action that takes just a few seconds does save lives.
The slogan for this year is ‘Seconds save lives – clean your hands! ‘
Promoting Implementation Of WHO 2020 Recommendation For Universal Hand Hygiene
The WHO has said that this year, the World Hand Hygiene Day is strongly connected with the ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ initiative that it started along with UNICEF in June 2020 with an aim to consistently improve hand hygiene facilities and practices as a whole of society approach. WHO has recommended the following to its member states to help improve hand hygiene practices:
1. Providing universal access to public hand hygiene stations and making their use obligatory on entering and leaving any public or private commercial building and any public transport facility.
2. Improving access to hand hygiene facilities and practices in health care facilities.
Hand Hygiene And COVID-19
According to WHO, COVID-19 primarily spreads through droplet and contact transmission. Contact transmission means by touching infected people and/or contaminated objects or surfaces. Thus, hands have a crucial role in the spread of coronavirus. Maintaining hand hygiene has been proven as an effective defence against the COVID-19 transmission, WHO has underlined on multiple occasions. Dr Jakab said,
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, good hand hygiene practices are tremendously important to prevent the risk of transmission, as part of a comprehensive package of public health measures.
Calls To Action This Year
WHO calls upon policymakers to provide the necessary infrastructure to allow people to effectively perform hand hygiene in public places and to support hand hygiene supplies in health care facilities.
It calls on health care workers and facilities to achieve effective hand hygiene action at the point of care. WHO has recommended the health care works to clean their hands:
– before touching a patient
– before clean/aseptic procedures
– after body fluid exposure
– after touching a patient
– after touching patients’ surroundings
It also calls upon the patients and the general public to clean their hands frequently and adopt it as a habit.
To the vaccinators that are involved in COVID-19 vaccination drives around the world, WHO has urged to clean hand after administering every vaccine. It has called upon them to take hand hygiene as one of the most critical matters in order to keep themselves and those receiving the vaccine safe.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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