Hand Hygiene
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Hand Washing Fact Sheet

3.5 million young children die from diarrhoea and lower respiratory-tract infections every year.

According to the World Health Organisation’s 2005 World Health Report, more than 3.5 million children under the age of 5 die from diarrhoea and acute lower respiratory-tract infections, such as pneumonia, every year — three quarters of them in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

30% of childhood deaths in South Africa are a result of preventable communicable diseases.

A communicable disease is an illness caused by a micro-organism (bacteria or virus) that is transmissible from person to person by direct contact with an affected individual or the individual’s discharges. In South Africa, these include childhood pneumonia, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS infections. Many of these fatalities could be avoided as the transmission of such infections can be prevented if simple hygiene practices such as handwashing are followed.

60% of South Africans don’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet.

This is according to the Global Hygiene Council’s 2009 Global Hygiene Survey of 8,000 individuals from eight countries including the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India and South Africa. Only 40% of all respondents maintained they washed their hands properly after using the toilet, sneezing or handling pets and food. Hand hygiene standards in South Africa compared poorly to other countries like Great Britain, Australia and India.

75% of illnesses in homes can be prevented using hygiene products and good hygiene habits such as handwashing.

A 2005-2007 study carried out by Professor Eugene C Cole and his team of 1,250 households (approx. 5,500 people) living in informal housing in the Western Cape demonstrated that illnesses in homes that received both hygiene products (anti-bacterial soaps, surface cleaners and antiseptic liquids) and practiced basic good hygiene habits – including hand washing - were reduced by up to 75%. The study indicated that 80% of gastrointestinal infections, including vomiting and diarrhoea, 70% of respiratory infections, including colds, flu and ear infections, and 70% of skin infections, for instance, abscesses, boils, eczema, impetigo, ringworm, scabies and pink eye, can be prevented through good hygiene habits.

40% of the world’s population does not have access to clean water and proper sanitation.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than a billion people do not have access to safe water and well over 2 billion people live without adequate sanitation. At any given time, more than half of the developing world’s population is suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation. The chances of survival dwindle in the absence of these essentials, especially for children, approximately 6,000 of whom die from water-related diseases, such as diarrhoea, every day.

SA has set a target of reducing child mortality rates in South Africa by 60% in 2015.

As part of its commitment to the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the South African government aims to reduce the country’s 1990 under-five child mortality rate by 60% by 2015 (down from 60 to 24 per 1000). Despite these intentions, the rate in 2007 had increased to 69 per 1000 and the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, recently admitted that infant mortality in South Africa remains ‘unacceptably high’. According to UNICEF, there were 37 countries in which at least 10% of children under five died in 2007 and all of these were in Africa, except for Afghanistan.

66% of South Africans don’t wash their hands with soap.

A five-second splash under water may make your hands appear cleaner and get rid of any visible dirt, but it is not really effective in getting rid of the harmful germs on your hands that can cause infection, especially at critical moments — after using the toilet, after cleaning a child and before handling food. Not only that, but only three out of five (59%) of parents in a recent global survey claimed that their children always wash their hands before eating.

How does washing with soap reduce the amount of respiratory infections by as much as 70%?

Washing hands with soap and household surfaces with disinfectants has been shown to successfully remove respiratory pathogens and reduce respiratory infections by as much as 70% percent.

4.3 million South African hands are now using the ‘6 Steps to Clean Hands’ method.

Given the country’s high mortality rate in children, largely as a result of preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, Dettol has embarked on a series of community-based initiatives that support Government’s drive to significantly reduce child mortality rates in South Africa by two-thirds by 2015. These initiatives include the Detto Roadshow, the Eve Graham Government Hospital Programme, the Dettol Mom and Baby Edushow, the Pick ‘n Pay School Club Dettol initiative, the Reckitt Benckiser Midwives Academy and the Fall Ill Less Often (FILO) initiative. Between them, these initiatives have already reached over 4.3 million South Africans and continue to educate 2,400 people every day.

3 Questions everyone should know the answers to

Why is hand washing so important?

The hands are one of the most important causes of cross contamination and cross infection in the home.

When should you wash your hands?


  • Eating or feeding children
  • Applying contact lenses
  • Giving medication or first aid


  • Using the toilet or changing a child’s nappy
  • Handling pets and domestic animals
  • Contact with blood or body fluids
  • Coughing, sneezing, or blowing and scratching the nose
  • Contact with a potentially contaminated site

Before and after...

  • Handling raw food
  • Tending to someone who is sick

And whenever...

  • Hands appear dirty

How should hands be washed?

  • Where soap and clean water are available, follow the ‘6 Steps to Clean Hands’ methods
  • Where soap and clean water are not available, alcohol-based hand rubs can be used to kill germs on the hands, but not if the hands are visibly dirty as these products don’t clean

How to hand wash guide!