Safe handwashing must become a habit that starts at home

Published October 20, 2020, 9:32 AM

by Judith Juntilla

Because ‘puwede na’ is never enough

Spurred by the alarming lack of knowledge among Filipinos about the safe way to wash hands, a campaign to propagate knowledge and instill the habit of washing hands seems to have pushed the message loud and clear.

Millions of Filipinos have joined the #SafeWash movement, driving home the message that when it comes to handwashing, the only way to make it effective is to do it the right way.

Last September, a survey revealed that less than half of Filipinos wash their hands for the prescribed 20 seconds. Even more alarming was the finding that only three percent were aware of all the instances in which they are supposed to wash their hands.

Prompted by these results, soap brand Safeguard mounted a campaign to educate people about the proper way of washing hands. Using an animated character called Fred D’Germ, the soap brand let loose the green glob to troll celebrities’ social media accounts with a rap song about common mistakes in handwashing. The trolling led to a showdown between Fred D’Germ and Filipino rap stars led by Gloc-9, who promptly banished the villain in a blanket of soap suds.

The message came through, and thanks to mounting urgency for people to start observing safe handwashing habits, millions of Filipinos came out to support the #SafeWash movement and curb improper handwashing in the Philippines. The project is among several concerted efforts between private sector entities like Safeguard, and the Department of Health (DOH) and UNICEF, that unite in multisectoral campaigns to promote proper handwashing as a way of preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

Health advocates are supporting the #SafeWash movement to promote hygiene and prevent the spread of infectious and communicable diseases. SafeWash involves the following steps:

First, wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Lather the hands and rub them together with soap by cleaning thoroughly from the back of the hands, the palm, between the fingers, under the nails. Scrub the hands for not less than 20 seconds. Then rinse the hands under clean and running water and finally dry the hands using a clean towel.

Health advocates stood behind the importance of proper handwashing, especially through the use of soaps like Safeguard which removes 99.9 percent of germs and viruses. Communicable diseases are a result of infections commonly spread through contact. For many years now, doctors and scientists have emphasized handwashing as the most economical, easiest, and most effective way of protecting oneself from infections.

Education, coupled with access to handwashing facilities, have been identified by advocates such as the Global Handwashing Partnership as keys to propagating the habit of safe handwashing. To this end, Safeguard is an active contributor to giving people access to handwashing facilities through partnerships with institutions such as malls, transport hubs, and other public spaces in order to provide the public with soap and running water.

For its part, Safeguard said that judging from the millions of Filipinos who came together and pledged their support of proper handwashing, the message is coming through loud and clear. Safe handwashing, it said, must become a habit that starts at home and is carried by people throughout their day and wherever they go.

Moreover, Safeguard called on the public to continue to fight misinformation and resist the “puwede na” mentality, which can be very dangerous, not just to one’s health, but also to the health of loved ones.