Because cholera prevention is a central focus for AmeriCares ongoing work in Haiti, World Hand Washing Day is significant for one clear reason: good hygiene plus good sanitation saves lives.
Hand washing is one of the key methods for preventing cholera and many other illnesses. Reinforcing good hand washing practices is especially significant in October, the month that the very first cholera case was confirmed in Haiti in 2010. Since then, there have been more than 600,000 reported cases of cholera to date. Since the start of the epidemic, AmeriCares has delivered enough medicine to treat more than 325,000 people suffering from cholera, as well as oral rehydration salts, hand sanitizer, soap, water purification tablets, disinfectant and other hygiene products to help prevent the spread of the disease, while supporting cholera prevention training.
In conjunction with World Hand Washing Day, AmeriCares Haiti supported seven partner organizations conducting community activities that promote hand washing and good health in urban slum and rural communities where hygiene is particularly poor due to limited access to education, health education, water and hygiene materials.
The overall goal of these activities is to educate area residents on how to prevent diarrheal disease and to reinforce good hygiene practices. Materials provided by AmeriCares at the partner sites will be integrated into other ongoing community health and cholera prevention activities.
AmeriCares Haiti staff will also directly promote hand washing through a dedicated radio show to inform and remind the public of the importance of hand washing and hygiene. An accompanying demonstration site will be available to the public in the areas outside of the radio station.
The activities, of which include distribution hygiene kits, soap, and water treatment tablets and information about how to keep families safe from water-related illness, will feature:
- Hand washing demonstrations for students at schools, at public markets and in other vulnerable community centers.
- Training on why hand washing is important to mitigate the cholera and other diarrheal diseases
- Door to door visits to inform residents of how they should wash their hands and why.