All Hands on Deck as Dettol Advocates Global Hand-Washing Tradition


By Raheem Akingbolu

“C ivilisation is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta.” This was the words of Brian W. Aldiss, author of ‘The Dark Light Years’. A critical look at this quote will lead to better understanding of the correlation between ignorance and lack of hygiene.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to conditions and practices that help maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases as hygiene. It is a set of practices performed for the preservation of health.

Hygiene, as a broad topic extends into areas such as medical hygiene, environmental hygiene, food hygiene, personal hygiene etc.

Personal hygiene is that aspect, which explains the right way to take care of one’s body, keeping it clean and most importantly, ensuring a good state of health through disease and infection prevention. It covers basic practices such as bathing, brushing of teeth, hair grooming, hand washing and so forth.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) every year millions of children in developing countries die from infections and illnesses, such as Diarrhoea. These deaths can be prevented with a simple act of washing hands regularly with a good soap.

Further research by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) shows that every day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under five year-olds and 145 women of childbearing age, making country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world. Although, analyses of recent trends show that the country is making progress in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, the pace still remains slow to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality by a third.

Hand washing is as old as man himself but as simple as it is, washing of hands has been ignored by many, both young and old, rich and poor, educated and illiterate. The simple act of washing hands with soap has the potential to save millions of lives when properly done.

There are more deaths caused by infections through unhygienic practices than poisoning yet poison has more dread factor in the minds of people over the greater threat, infection.

As humans, it must be noted that we carry millions of micro-organisms which are not visible to the naked eyes known. Although most of these organisms are harmless in causing infections, however, some others are harmful. These germs can easily be transferred to other people through handshake and sometimes through objects in the environment causing harm from cold, flu, diarrhoea, pneumonia and skin infections. The children, the elderly or those with weakened immune system are easily infected and fall sick.

Dettol has taken the bull by its horn to lead the campaign on Global Hand-washing through raising awareness on the benefits of washing hands with soap. The brand has also been promoting the Global Toilet Day to foster, support and instill a hygiene culture in Nigeria. The awareness generated from the campaign highlighted the importance of hygiene around the world beyond October 15, the global date for the hand-washing day commemoration. The exercise was founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for hand washing and provided an opportunity to design, test and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times.

In celebration of the 2016 Global Hand-washing Day, Dettol organised a hand-washing event where it donated Hand-washing sites and a borehole to United Christian Nursery & Primary School Apapa, Lagos. Previously, the school had no running water for the children to wash their hands and this could easily be a cause for infection. The event was in partnership with the Association of Community Pharmacists, Apapa Zone, and had a huge turnaround of children from different schools in the Apapa LGA.

Speaking at the event, the Managing Director, RB West Africa, Rahul Murgai, stated that, ‘In RB, our global vision is to provide the world with innovative solutions and products for healthier lives and happier homes. Dettol has been the trusted champion for good health and hygiene for over 50 years in Nigeria. We believe that it’s important to inculcate good habits at an early age. A simple act of washing your hands with soap can prevent illness and diarrhoea related deaths if we truly want to achieve the millennium development goal of a clean and healthy Nigeria. The Global Hand-washing Day gives us the opportunity to leverage a larger eco system and an awareness platform to achieve this objective.”

“Every year, millions of children in developing countries die from preventable illnesses, such as diarrhoea, global diarrhoea casualties are 4,035 daily. These needless deaths are preventable with simple hand washing with soap, which can break the chain of infection. Turning hand washing into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, but, lack of awareness and support are the key barriers.”

“Our theme for the 2016 Global Hand-washing day is “Small Acts, Big Impact”. In essence what we want is to make people aware of how they can make a big difference by doing a small thing, telling them how they can save millions of lives by just a small act of washing hands.” Mugai said.

Proper hand washing therefore is the use of water and soap or ash, especially after using the toilet or bathroom. A study conducted to examine the effectiveness of hand washing with soap and water showed that hand washing with soap is substantially more effective and can reduce diarrhoea morbidity by 44 per cent, as well as the transmission of respiratory tract, skin and eye infections.

So when next you make use of a toilet facility, wash your hands properly before contact with food (preparing food, eating, feeding a child etc), after contact with a sick person or if hands are visibly soiled do not forget to properly wash with water and soap, as that simple act can prevent you from contacting a disease or transmitting same to those around you.

The simple activity of washing hands, which is a guaranteed win for everyone except germs and which can be carried out effectively in these five simple steps: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse and Dry, was taught the kids using amusing, easy-to-remember and innovative learning methods all in a bid to ensure the spread of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea and dysentery are greatly curtailed.

In Nigeria, Dettol has been creating awareness among mothers and children. In the last 6 years, they have reached out to over 6 million Nigerian children and mothers through their School Hygiene Programme and various other initiatives in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Nigerian Medical Association and Save the Children to create a Healthy Nigeria and reduce diarrhoea-related deaths.

Dettol is one of Nigeria’s leading brands and has been leading the campaign for Global Hand-washing Day commemoration nationwide. The campaign ran simultaneously in over 19 countries and was a big impact in preventing deaths from infections.