October 15 is Global Hand-Washing Day. Why have a day dedicated to the prosaic act of washing one's hands? Because hand-washing holds the key to preventing many serious diseases both at home and around the world. Remember when your mom told you to wash your hands before eating? It was good advice. According to the International Water Institute (Stockholm), evidence shows that diarrheal illnesses may be reduced by 45 per cent by washing hands with soap after using the toilet and before eating. Many other diseases can be passed from one person to another by people who don't wash their hands. Hand-washing is considered to be an important defense against the spread of cholera, typhoid, and even the common flu virus, among other diseases.
PASE, the Water Management Project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (CAR), is working to provide clean drinking water to villages in the CAR and also to teach good hygiene practices to villagers, such as the importance of hand-washing. Providing clean water is only one part of preventing water-borne diseases. Hand-washing is a crucial element in the equation.
This year PASE will be constructing latrines and hand-washing stations at schools and health centers in CAR in order help the "hand-washing habit" to take root.
Photo: Marie Gbayina pours water for Rodrigue Koulagne to wash his hands.
Deborah and Joe Troester are ELCA missionaries in Baboua, the Central African Republic. Joe serves as technical advisor for PASE, which provides clean drinking water and promotes good hygiene and sanitation to villagers. Pastor Deborah teaches at the Theological School in Baboua. Their daughter, Christa, attends ninth grade at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé, Cameroon.