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A boy looking up at the camera while washing his hands.
By
Julie Boyland
Photo Credit
Water For People

Our hands are made for playing, dancing, writing, building … not spreading germs! As the COVID-19 pandemic brings the world to a screeching halt, attentive handwashing must take center stage in our daily lives. It’s crucial that we prioritize safe hygiene practices to keep our loved ones safe and flatten the curve. 

For some, this is easier said than done. Access to essential hygiene supplies is a profound luxury that we often take for granted. In many communities around the world, especially in rural areas, fundamental hygiene resources are scarce. These populations are highly vulnerable to waterborne diseases and harmful infections. According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP), an astounding total of 2.2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water. A shocking estimate of 4.2 billion people do not have vital sanitation systems! With COVID-19 on the rise and waterborne diseases responsible for nearly 3.5 million deaths every year, universal hygiene support is more crucial than ever. 

Water For People recognizes the pivotal impact of clean water access and advocates for improved sanitation solutions worldwide. This inspirational nonprofit equips communities with the resources and knowledge they need to prioritize hygiene, fostering a healthier future for generations to come. 

Why does handwashing matter? 
Handwashing is your first line of defense against the spread of germs. This simple task holds tremendous weight for public health, decreasing diarrheal deaths by 50% and respiratory infections by 16%. Research from the CDC indicates that prioritizing handwashing could prevent millions of deaths each year. 

Water For People visits schools to educate students on the importance of proper hygiene. In 2019, Water For People taught 269,361 people valuable lessons on hygiene practices. Their teams set up handwashing stations on campuses and forged hygiene committees to encourage students to ingrain the practices into their daily routines. 

The vital role of safe water for handwashing
As we adjust to life amid a pandemic, proper handwashing is more significant than ever, and clean water is the key ingredient for an effective hygiene regimen. It’s important to always use clean water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds at a time. If you do not have access to clean water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective substitute. 

However, many people lack the tools and materials they need for healthful living. Hygiene inequality is a pertinent issue that impacts communities across the globe. Approximately 1 in 3 people lack clean water access and 3 in 10 children don’t have clean water at school. This is incredibly dangerous for public health. Every year, around 1 million people die due to hygiene-related diseases. 

Improved hygiene has the power to save lives, foster healthier lifestyles and promote success for children in school.
 
Myula’s handwashing heroes
In the village of Mvula in Malawi, soap was a sparse and expensive commodity. The threat of water-borne diseases loomed over the community until Water For People stepped in to forge Myula’s first soap-making committee. 

"When I was growing up, getting safe water was a challenge," said Elina Banda, a local mother of three children and a founding member of the Water For People soap-making committee. "We had to walk long distances. As a small girl, I would often miss classes at school. I am happy that things have greatly changed now."

Elina’s story is echoed in communities across the globe, emphasizing the universal need for safe hygiene resources. Soap, clean water and sanitation systems are essential for public health and promote success for girls in school. In many cases, girls are likely to be responsible for bringing drinking and sanitation water to their families. Every day, women and children spend about 200 million hours collecting water. When access to water is challenging, they must put their education on hold in order to support their families. Additionally, girls need clean water and sanitation systems for menstruation care. 

The Water For People soap-making committee allowed the village of Myula to prioritize education for their children and improve the overall health of the community. 

"We saw that although families had constructed latrines, many of them did not have soap for handwashing and personal hygiene," recalls Elina Banda. "It was mainly due to the high cost of bringing soaps from other towns. This lack of soap meant we were still experiencing some water-borne diseases."

The soap-making committee created a cost-efficient soap that would improve the village’s hygiene health while stimulating their local economy. The soap is locally sourced from three simple ingredients: baking soda, oil and extract from a Malawian tree. Introducing safe and affordable soap into Myula has improved the public health of the community, lessened the threat of waterborne diseases, and ensured that children can continue their education.

Extend a helping hand with Water For People and Global Impact’s charity partners
From hygiene education to handwashing stations, Water For People takes on the world’s water crisis with sustainable solutions that promise lasting results. They offer comprehensive support to ensure every community has safe drinking water and essential sanitation systems.

Global Impact’s Clean Water Fund supports three international organizations with a shared commitment for improved sanitation and clean water access, including Water For People. All contributions to this fund directly support the clean water projects of these three organizations. Notable projects that this fund focuses on include: 

  • Installing water stations.
  • Building wells and piping systems.
  • Forest and freshwater management.
  • Teaching proper sanitation.

How can you get involved in the fight for universal clean water access?

Workplace giving
Many companies will match their employees’ charitable donations. Ask your employer about their workplace giving program and how you can give back to the charity of your choice. Support organizations that value hygiene and clean water access, creating a safer world for future generations. 

Spread factual information on hygiene
Highlight the value of proper hygiene through education. Teach your family and friends about the impact of safe water access to shed light on this important issue. 

Always practice proper hygiene
Wash your hands regularly and prioritize proper hygiene to limit the spread of infectious diseases. 

These hands are made for playing, writing, building, dancing… and, above all else, helping those in need. Extend a helping hand today with Global Impact and help us create a healthier world for everybody. 


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