Updated: Jul 13
By Kaoutar Ait Lahaj
The world is currently suffering from a major pandemic, and the most effective way to control its spread is through healthy hygienic practices — regular hand-washing, the use of face masks, and social distancing. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has made October 15 one of the most important days of celebration this year: Global Handwashing Day.
Hand-washing saves lives, limiting or even preventing the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. It is the most accessible and affordable way to protect people from illnesses. Studies show that regular hand washing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds reduces the transmission of outbreak-related pathogens such as cholera, Ebola, shigellosis, SARS, and hepatitis E, reduces diarrheal diseases by 30 to 48 percent, and is also a key in the fight against COVID-19.
Soap and water destroy the outer membrane of the COVID-19 virus and thereby inactivates it. This simple habit can prevent the need to pay for expensive medication or treatments, and it can save many lives. If handwashing is such a simple solution, what could stop people from washing their hands?
Many areas around the world suffer from lack of access to clean water. Often, even if they have access to drinking water sources, community members (usually women or girls) will have to walk for many hours to reach it. This hard journey makes water a precious commodity that cannot be wasted, and what makes washing hands regularly a luxurious habit that they cannot afford.
One of the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) main goals is to provide a better life for rural communities that are sacrificing their education, their health, and also their future just to walk many kilometers in search of clean water. HAF aims to provide these communities with drinking water through initiatives such as building wells and installing water systems that connect the water source with the houses of the villages, lifting a huge burden from the families’ shoulders.
These types of projects enable girls to go to school and women to be engaged in cooperatives instead of spending so much of their time seeking water daily. They also contribute to the health, well-being, and economic power of a family. Clean water decreases the chances of family members getting sick from drinking unhealthy water, which can affect the family’s potential income, especially if the parents are the ones who got sick.
While HAF works to provide marginalized communities with clean water, it also invites people around the world to contribute to the project in order to help more and more communities around Morocco.
Washing hands has always been important, but coronavirus has served as a reminder of just how vital this simple habit is to our daily lives. So let us save the world together and wash our hands.