Despite all medical interventions combined, proper hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent infectious disease from spreading, and is a cornerstone of our development efforts worldwide.
From a cost-benefit perspective, washing with soap is three times more effective than building latrines, more than 50 times as effective as providing clean tap water, and nearly 200 times as effective as any single immunization. Volunteers model this practice in our partner communities to keep themselves healthy and to protect the health of those we serve. Our Essential Services Prospectus explains how on page 22-23.
This simple, safe and cost-effective practice that people of all ages can adopt and is a major contributor to saving lives worldwide.
Volunteers teach the simple techniques of hand washing to children in partner communities to help parents and caregivers instill an attitude of health at an early age. In Tanzania, hand washing is a cornerstone of the Reaching Children’s Potential Demonstration Program (RCP).
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. The scientific evidence is indisputable: Clean Hands Save Lives.
What Volunteers Do
Perhaps the most important health contribution short-term volunteers make is to model hand washing with soap and water at schools and daycare centers and in families’ homes. This practice can reduce infectious disease and save lives. Because Global Volunteers team members work on this health initiative in the same communities multiple times a year, the impact is cumulative. For instance, volunteers with communications skills can translate local people’s desires to stay healthy into messages that encourage proper hand washing with soap and water. Research shows that appealing to personal desires is far more effective than simply focusing on health and scientific evidence. Although the message is always the same, the methods of delivering the message are as creative as the volunteers who serve. Together with volunteers with health care and health science backgrounds.team members teach public health education and make disease prevention and hygiene relevant to teachers, students and their parents.
Providing Appropriate Technology
In Tanzania, the RCP rural caregivers help install “hand-washing stations” which have been demonstrated worldwide to increase families’ and students’ use of soap and water. A central element of the hand-washing stations is availability of a clean water source near to cooking and toileting areas of a family’s home and schools. Lack of access to both piped water and soap is a barrier to hand-washing in the developing world. “Tippy Taps” are simple and economical hand-washing stations, made with commonly-available materials, and not dependent on a piped water supply. The user touches only the soap, which hangs from the simple frame. The tap is operated by a foot lever, which connects to a plastic jug by a rope to allow a free stream of sanitized water to flow over the user’s hands, thereby reducing the chance for bacteria transmission.