GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY: Salesian Missions highlights importance of soap donations and hygiene education for good health in Salesian programs
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions joins the international community in celebrating Global Handwashing Day 2018. The day, organized by the Global Handwashing Partnership, is celebrated each year on Oct. 15 and is dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of hand washing with soap, the most effective and affordable way to prevent diarrhea and pneumonia.
This year’s theme, “Clean Hands—A Recipe for Health,” focuses on the links between hand washing and food including food hygiene and nutrition. The Global Handwashing Partnership notes that hand washing is an important part of keeping food safe, preventing diseases and helping children grow strong.
According to the World Health Organization, millions of young lives could be saved with access to bar soap and hygiene education. Pneumonia and diarrheal disease are two of the leading causes of death among children under 5 years old. Most are from populations in developing countries who live in extreme poverty. Having access to clean water and soap is one of the best preventive measures.
Thanks to an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable, seven donations of soap were made to Salesian programs in Haiti, Swaziland and Guatemala in 2017. The soap was included in regular shipments of rice-meal donations that are made to Salesian programs in countries around the globe by Rise Against Hunger.
The Talita Kumi Foundation for the Development and Education of Indigenous Women in Guatemala was one of the soap donation recipients. Talita Kumi operates four boarding schools at which more than 600 indigenous women receive education free of charge. In addition to serving boarding students, Talita Kumi works with youth who attend programs during the day. In 2017, the organization served 1,300 students who benefited from the donated bars of soap for personal hygiene and education in health, hygiene and nutrition.
Providing education directly to boarding students allows Salesian missionaries opportunities for efficient follow up to assess changes in student attitudes, behaviors and practices. Boarding students learn important lessons in hygiene related to cooking and agricultural practices during the daily activities of the boarding school as well as the importance of adequate hygienic practices for them, their families and their communities.
“My parents supported me to come study at Talita Kumi because here everything is free for us and that helps us a lot,” says Deysi Paola Pacay Pop, a 9th grader. “Here they give me white soap that smells very good. In addition, they teach us that one should be clean to have good health. They teach us that we should wash our hands if we are going to eat or prepare food in order to not contaminate the food or fill us with bacteria. Then I know that if I clean my hands, I won’t be sick a lot. When I return to my home, I am going to teach this to my little siblings.”
Salesian missionaries who are engaged in providing hygiene education along with passing out the soap, report that the soap is being used in the homes of local residents with significant improvement being seen in the residents’ health after using the soap regularly. Previously, many local children had skin irritations and there was even an outbreak of cholera in 2016. Since the soap donation, children are healthy and not a single case of cholera was reported in the area in 2017.
Salesian missionaries are also responding with soap and other hygiene-related items during times of crisis. In the summer of 2017, Sri Lanka faced devastating flooding during monsoon season which runs from May to September. The rains at the end of May 2017 caused major floods and landslides.
Salesian missionaries provided shelter and collected and distributed a number of items to families in need who were affected. They provided rice, dhal, bottled water, tea leaves, milk powder, baby food, canned food and ready-to-eat packaged food such as biscuits, bread and jam. They also provided hygiene items such as soap, toothbrushes, sanitary goods, bed sheets and clothing.
Working and living in the communities they serve, Salesian missionaries are perfectly positioned to ensure that soap and other hygiene items reaches those who need it most and the accompanying education ensures that recipients learn the importance of proper hygiene for good health. Operating primary schools, technical training centers, agricultural schools, youth centers, orphanages and programs for street children, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines assessing what youth and their families need most.
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