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Proper hand washing to prevent child mortality, malnutrition: experts

Poor hand washing practices are key and most risk factor for affecting diarrhea, pneumonia and many other infectious diseases in Bangladesh, health experts told BSS.

Proper hand washing before feeding child is a life-saving and cost-effective intervention for families as absence of this practice may lead to infections and poor appetite and eventually malnutrition and death, they added.

Dr Rukhsana Haider, chairperson of Training and Assistance for Health and Nutrition Foundation (THAN), said although Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in providing safer drinking water and improved toilet facilities to its people, the country is reeling from poor hand washing behavior as proportion of proper hand washing behavior is negligible.

"We have observed that hand washing behavior has remained unchanged and we need massive cultural change for improved hand washing practices," she added.

Dr Rukhsana, also co-chair of World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), said Poor hand washing practices among the mothers cause different diseases for children which are pushing them into malnutrition hampering their normal mental and physical growth.

Children are frequently affected by diarrhea and respiratory diseases as most of the mothers do not wash their hands with soap before preparing food and feeding children, after defecating and cleaning children's anuses, she said.

Hand washing is a vital intervention for children under five who are both more likely to put their fingers in their mouth and become seriously ill or die from diarrhoeal dehydration, Dr Rukhsana added.

Shahin Akhter, head of Nutrition and Food security of Eminence, said poor hand washing practice causes infection through entering germs in children's body, which leads to different infectious diseases.

She observed that most mothers and caregivers do not follow proper hand washing practices as they do not wash their hands with soap result in they carry germs of different diseases.

"Many mothers do not use clean napkins and towel after washing their hands... This is very common scenario among the caregivers and mothers, which spread different diseases," she added.

Shahin Akhter said immune system of children is gradually weakening, if children are affected by diarrhea and others infectious diseases that leads malnutrition.

Prof Dr MA Aziz of Dr Sirajul Islam Medical College and Hospital, said both children and adult people may suffer from diarrhea, cholera, jaundice, typhoid and respiratory diseases, if proper hand wand washing behaviors are remain absent.

Health expert suggested launching massive awareness programme highlighting importance of proper hand washing practices across the country to prevent many killer diseases.

They said awareness programme should be introduced at educational institutions to educate students on proper hand washing behavior, which will help promote handing practices among the people.

Appropriate hand washing practices may save lives of children and adult ones preventing around 20 infectious diseases, a research report of American based Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) said.

According to a report released by the National Food Security Nutritional Surveillance Project (FSNSP) under the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of BRAC University, only two percent caregivers use soap before feeding child and four percent before preparing food.

Around one quarter of mothers or caregivers under five children in Bangladesh practice appropriate hand washing behaviors with much lower adherence during crucial moments, the report added.

Even among wealthier households, only 35 percent of the caregivers of under five children practice appropriate hand washing behavior although the availability of soap is very high(97 percent), it added.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)