“Cleaning Hands is the Difference between Life and Death.” – Dr. Tedros, WHO Boss on World Handwashing Day
“I just washed my hands next door and here you are asking me to wash again,” laments Cliff Kimbi, a Bamenda City-dweller as he tried to make his way into Nkwen Baptist Health Centre but was stopped by a security agent. “I only am doing my job, sir, it’s either you wash your hands or you will not go in,” stated the man in yellow with a stain look on, standing by Handwashing Station.
This is the new way of life for people in Bamenda and other parts of Cameroon. Handwashing, especially when accessing public services has become the new normal here since March 5, 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country.
Handwashing and alcohol sanitizer based stations are what greet visitors and workers alike at main entrances and doorposts of offices these days in facilities of the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services, all in a bid to ascertain hand hygiene and limit or bar the way to the new Coronavirus.
The need for hand hygiene has never been emphasized as it is in the advent of the Coronavirus Pandemic raging across the globe, challenging nations with state of the art health facilities and putting those with weak health systems in a limbo.
The call to wash hand regularly came stronger during this year’s Hand Hygiene Day, last May 6, 2020. The day was celebrated within the context of a campaign organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), aimed at recognizing that handwashing is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus.
Bakari Didymus, Infection Prevention Control Nurse at Banso Baptist Hospital after championing hand hygiene for years says, “Handwashing is very important. When you wash hands it reduces infection rates.”
According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, “The simple act of cleaning hands can be the difference between life and death, and remains one of the most important public health measures for protecting individuals, families, and communities against diseases.
WHO, on the occasion of the 2020 Hand Hygiene Day equally spotlighted nurses and midwives under the rolling slogan, “Nurses and midwives clean care in your hands!” Given that nurses and midwives are at the front in healthcare delivery, spotlighting them on a day like this was to highlight the critical role they play in infection prevention, of which handwashing is crucial.
Worthy of note is that apart from frontline heroes like nurses and midwives, WHO says, “Health workers in general and community members alike can play a role in preventing infections by practicing regular and frequent handwashing.”
Despite the cardinal role handwashing plays in preventing infections, Dr. Tedros regrets that “3-billion people worldwide are unable to practice this most basic of precautions due to lack of soap and water, with less than two-thirds (2/3) of health facilities equipped with handwashing stations.”
Sensing this lack, WHO and partners like the CBC Health Services are calling on governments and policymakers to make hand hygiene a global priority; inspire behavior change towards hand hygiene; engage health workers in clean care and prevention of infections. The time to do that is now because we are living in unprecedented times with disease outbreaks happening at breakneck speed!