It is certainly an indication of how times have changed and the importance given to washroom hygiene. There is now a firm connection in the minds of most people between washroom hygiene and health & wellness, but just how real is this connection? Let’s look at one particular sector education.
In 2004, I was invited to the Houses of Parliament in London, England, to the launch of a Government-backed initiative to raise the standard of washrooms in all schools.
There is a regulated minimum standard for workers in UK, including teaching staff. This states that there must be facilities for hand washing and hand drying, toilet tissue and a suitable means of sanitary disposal. However, there is nothing to say that any of the above must be provided for students! Most schools provide toilet tissue but many have no soap or towels available and no means of sanitary disposal for female students.
The campaign raises concern about the psychological and physical effect on pupils of poor toilet facilities. The facts cannot be ignored:
- A toilet needs a door and preferably a lock or a child will not use the toilet.
- When children hold themselves rather than use an unpleasant facility they develop urine infections. This is particularly dangerous in boys.
- Failing to use the toilet when necessary can lead to incontinence.
- Children associate that the more they drink the more they need to use the toilet; therefore they do not drink enough water. Dehydration is very dangerous particularly for those living in hot climates.
- Dirty hands are the single biggest threat to health and wellness.
- Bullying often takes place in the most seedy environments like dirty toilets.
- The Bog Standard campaign (Bog is a slang word in UK for toilet) has a website www.bog-standard.org.
October 15 was World Hand Washing Day and Technical Concepts, South Africa, joined forces with other companies in the industry to support Hand Washing for Life’s promotion of hand washing for schools. Hand Washing for Life sponsored by suppliers of hand washing products to promote the importance of hand hygiene and how to wash hands correctly, and to promote Best Practice Washrooms preferably with touch free washroom technology.
Our marketing people went with them to two schools in South African black Townships. We donated soap dispensers and physically washed the hands of the children showing them the correct techniques to get their hands properly clean.
The Department of Health was represented at the event and it was also attended by His Excellency, The Prince of Orange from the Netherlands who is President of UNSGAB (United Nations Secretary Generals Advisory Board on water and sanitation). His Excellency stressed the importance of hand washing for world health.
He demonstrated that hands must be washed for a minimum of 15 seconds and that water alone is not enough, soap must be used. You must wash between fingers and pay special attention to the nails.
The children sang songs about hand washing and were taught that they need to wash hands after using the toilet, after playing with animals, after playing in sand or general play, after coughing or sneezing and of course before eating or preparing food. You can learn more about Hand Washing for Life at www.handwashingforlife.com and more about the Advisory Board for Water and Sanitation at www.unsgab.org
It is clear from the escalation of global events and media coverage that we have to improve washrooms and hand washing facilities in general. The health of our children depends on it. If you do nothing else after reading this article, please teach the children in your family to wash their hands correctly and help them to stay safe. You could also find out if the toilets in your child’s school provide the basic essentials of privacy behind a locked door, toilet tissue, soap, hand towels and sanitary disposal for girls.
It is every child’s basic right to have a decent toilet facility to use and it is all our responsibility to make sure it is provided.