BHUBANESWAR: Intensified campaign on sanitation and good hygiene seems to have increased awareness among the vulnerable sections yet adoption of healthy practices like washing hands is still found wanting.
Knowledge on proper hand washing practices to prevent communicable diseases like diarrhoea has increased significantly with around 96 per cent of women in slum pockets stating that washing hands with soap is better than only water.
Yet, almost 30 per cent of women and 40 per cent of children in a major slum of Sikharchandi in Bhubaneswar do not use soap after defecation, a study has revealed.
The findings have reinforced an urgent need to ensure translation of knowledge into practice among the vulnerable population so as to reduce incidence of communicable diseases. According to estimates, more than 20 per cent of deaths among children below the age of five in India are caused by diarrhoea, which is a direct outcome of lack of sanitation, hygiene and unsafe drinking water.
It has been established that washing hands with soap reduces diarrhoea incidence in the population by over 40 per cent.
The study conducted by SS Kadam, Sanghamitra Pati and AS Chauhan of Indian Institute of Public Health, Bhubaneswar found that while 77 per cent of women in the slum washed hands before serving food, 81 per cent of children between the age of six and 12 of the same households do so. However, only 17.5 per cent of the children told they use soap to wash hands before consuming food.
The higher percentage of children taking to simple hand wash before eating has been attributed to school education with 76 per cent stating that they had been told to do so by teachers.But it has also been observed that there is low supervision in schools rather than at home in terms of enforcing hand washing.
Only 29 per cent of children told that their teachers check their hand washing practice in school.
This might not motivate the students to make washing hands as a part of their routine. Besides, more than half of the children at 56 per cent are unaware about the critical timings of hand washing like before taking food or after defecation.
“Critical times of hand washing are crucial in breaking the chain of faecal-oral contamination, a major cause of diarrhoeal diseases. As the school has been recognised as an important setting for hygiene promotion, our findings display a strong deficit in inculcating such behaviour among children from a very young age. Systematic integration of health and hygiene education along with enforcing proper practice should be made a priority in schools,” Sanghamitra Pati said.