Proper hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent infectious disease from spreading. In Ecuador, impoverished children are taught how to properly wash their hands, and are helped to do it several times a day.
In Ecuador, you can have a significant impact in teaching at-risk children about proper hygienic measures, especially ones so simple yet so important as washing hands with soap and water. Washing hands with soap and water is the most cost-effective preventative health measure readily available to virtually everyone. From a cost-benefit perspective, washing with soap is three times more effective than building latrines, nearly 60 times as effective as providing clean running water, and more than 300 times as effective as any single immunization.*
Children are “agents of change” and with their positive energy and new ideas can cause a change in habits in their homes. They also represent the greatest need in that they suffer the most from diarrheal and respiratory diseases. Latrines, clean water, and immunizations are all important and necessary health initiatives. However, washing hands with soap will save more lives than any single vaccine or other medical intervention.
Perhaps the most important health contribution volunteers can make in Ecuador is to model handwashing with soap and water at the daycare centers and to help children develop this habit from an early age. The little ones at the daycare centers need help reaching the soap, scrubbing their hands, and drying them. They may seem like a small task, but it can go a long way for the long-term health of these children.
*Source: Global Handwashing Day Planner’s Guide http://www.who.int/gpsc/events/2008/Global_Handwashing_Day_Planners_Guide.pdf as cited in the Global Volunteers Essential Services Prospectus.