MANILA, Philippines—Do not ever wash your hands of responsibility. But wash them even up to 20 times a day to help keep the doctor away.
On the eve of the third Global Handwashing Day on Saturday, health experts encouraged Filipinos, especially children, to develop the habit of proper hand-washing, which has been proven effective against the spread of various infections.
Studies have shown that repeated hand-washing in a day reduces the incidence of diarrheal diseases, cough and colds, among ailments, by as much as 40 to 50 percent, Health Assistant Secretary Paulyn Ubial told reporters.
The Department of Health, along with the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Philippine Public Health Association, participated Friday in the observance of Global Handwashing Day with 1,000 public school children simultaneously washing their hands the proper way.
The event was hosted by multinational consumer products company Unilever at the SM Mall of Asia to mark the international celebration of the Global Handwashing Day, which takes place every October 15—a date chosen by the UN General Assembly in 2008.
The campaign was aimed at mobilizing millions around the world to clean their hands with soap and water as a major approach to disease prevention.
“Proper hand-washing is all the more relevant now in the Philippines as we face one of the most recent flooding that has affected many families in Bulacan and Pampanga,” Timothy Grieve, chief of water and sanitation of Unicef Philippines, said at Friday’s event.
He added that hand-washing at critical times can reduce diarrhea cases by more than 40 percent. “That’s more time at school, less time at home, more time with friends, more time for play and more time doing things that you love,” said Grieve.
The critical times to wash the hands include before eating, after using the toilet, and after coming in from work and play, according to health experts.
Records from the DOH National Epidemiology Center showed that 9,050 Filipinos suffered from acute bloody diarrhea in 2010.
Of this figure, nearly 30 percent or 2,697 cases were children aged 1 to 4 and at least 12 percent or 1,143 were aged 5 to 14. At least 20 people died of diarrhea.
Also in the same year, at least 99,857 Filipinos suffered from influenza-like illnesses, majority of whom were children aged 1 to 4. At least 21 percent of the cases involved children aged 5 to 14. The health agency recorded 162 deaths due to influenza-like diseases.
Eight-year-old Micah Aquino, a Grade 3 student at the Marcela Marcelo Elementary School in Malibay, Pasay City, said she washes her hands thoroughly three times before eating and after coming home from school. She learned the proper way of hand-washing at Friday’s activity.
According to Ubial, the correct way to wash the hands should take about 20 to 30 seconds or at least two “Happy Birthday” songs, at least 20 times a day. The back of the hands, under the nails and in between the fingers must be scrubbed well with soap.
Ubial said that the health department was encouraging restaurants, playgrounds and other establishments which children frequent to set up hand-washing facilities separate from the restroom.
In public schools where toilets are limited, hand-washing facilities must also be set up, she added.