Most people have a daily routine or regimen related to their personal hygiene. This often includes washing face and hands, brushing teeth, showering; etc. Personal hygiene is usually something we learn at an early age and continue as matter of course throughout life. To complete these tasks, we use items that have been coined, in many cases, “the essentials”. While the specifics of these products vary from person to person it is easy to narrow it down to a basic list: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and access to clean water. But what if you suddenly found yourself in a place where “the essentials” were simply unavailable?
What is hygiene and why does it matter?
Hygiene refers to acts that can lead to good health and cleanliness, such as frequent handwashing, face washing, and bathing with soap and water. However, in many areas of the world, practicing personal hygiene is difficult due to lack of access to “the essentials” – such as clean water and soap.
As with all pillars of the WASH program, HRI’s goal for hygiene specific programs is to provide the necessary tools and education to help reduce preventable illness. To accomplish this HRI procuring basic hygiene items locally and educating people on healthy hygiene practices in their specific environment.
This work has been found to have a profound impact in the orphanages where HRI works in Haiti. Along with improving sanitation systems, HRI is also building showers so that children have the ability to bathe with clean water and soap. Children and caregivers alike are taught the importance of washing, cleaning their teeth, and most importantly, washing their hands frequently. According to the Centers for Disease Control “keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.” This helps stop the spread and effects of childhood disease and builds healthy habits that children can carry with them into adulthood.
HRI also supplies and teaches women and girls about feminine hygiene products. This is especially important for adolescent girls when often the supplies, as well as the proper facilities for their use are not available. In many places, girls are unable to attend school during these times as they do not have the means to manage their needs. No child should have to miss school because basic products are not within their reach.
These practices allow all children to live safer, healthier, more carefree lives. Lives without the pain and fear brought on by easily preventable hygiene-related disease. It starts with “the essentials”.
WASH: The whole picture
As you can see, the three pillars of the WASH system work together to build cleaner and healthier environments for children and adults in need around the world. It starts with improving access to clean water, continues with teaching the how and why of ensuring it stays that way, and wraps up with teaching how best to use it.
Contributed by Caitlin Barnett