EDITORIAL - Hand hygiene
(The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

As recommended by epidemiology experts, there are three basic health protocols for preventing coronavirus infection. One is wearing face masks. Another is maintaining physical distance of one to two meters. The third is hand hygiene, either through disinfection with minimum 70 percent alochol or, even better, regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

The third option, unfortunately, is easier said than done for an estimated 15 percent of Filipinos living in urban centers – more than seven million people. As the country joined the world in marking Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15, the Department of Health and United Nations Children’s Fund sounded the alarm on the high number of Filipinos with no handwashing facilities at home.

According to Unicef, those seven million are among the 40 percent of the world population, or about three billion people, lacking facilities at home for hand washing with soap and water. Apart from homes, Unicef estimates that 43 percent of schools worldwide also lack such facilities, affecting 818 million school-age children.

The problem has been around for a long time. Unicef has launched the Hand Hygiene for All initiative together with the World Health Organization. But lack of resources in developing countries and the proliferation of slums where shanties are not connected to sanitation networks have slowed down the initiative. In the Philippines, the problem is acute particularly in urban informal settlements.

Providing access to safe water in shanties is a challenge. With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the urgency of regular handwashing, however, the problem can be eased through the provision of public hand washing areas. This has been done in places such as Baguio City.

As for the schools, the government can take advantage of the suspension of face-to-face classes to upgrade water and sanitation facilities. With blended learning and Filipino children continuing formal education at home for at least six months during the pandemic, the deficiency in school sanitation facilities can be corrected. Even when the COVID pandemic is over, regular handwashing is a critical component of basic healthcare.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with