Happy Global Handwashing Day! The Power Is in Your Hands.

Did you wash with soap today? If you're not in regular practice, it's time to pump it up and get scrubbing because today is Global Handwashing Day! That's right. Paw polishing is so important that it has its own day.  Why? Well...

Remember that time you got food poisoning after eating take-out? The chef probably pooped and didn't wash his hands. Gross, huh? But today is about much more than reminding you and me to cultivate bubbly fingers. According to the Global Handwashing Day official website:

"Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths."

Without clean water, sanitation and regular handwashing (a triad often referred to as WASH), A Tippy Tap in usediarrhea becomes a regular recurrence. This means that money must be spent on medicine, students are absent from school and are undernourished, causing physical and developmental delays. For many children who lack access to medical care or clean water, diarrhea can be deadly. Global Handwashing Day gives schools around the world an opportunity to reinforce good hygiene practices. Check out some of the events going on around the world today, learn more at WASH Advocates, and find out how to build a Tippy Tap just like the one on the left. Perhaps most importantly, lend your support to the Paul Simon Water for the World Act, which increases the effectiveness of the USA's current life-saving international programs without increasing costs.

And remember that diarrhea you got? The Center for Disease Control's most recent report estimated that 1 in 6 people, 48 million of us, got food poisoning in 2011, and 3,000 people died from it. On the Leonard Lopate show last Friday, Columbia University epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Morse mentioned that 30% of the population at any one time has diarrhea. That's crazy!!! Many of these viruses, food-borne bacteria and nasty germy germ germs (as opposed to the awesome ones that get along with our bodies) can be stopped dead in their tracks just by washing your hands before food comes in and after poop comes out.

Some people suggest singing Happy Birthday while washing to ensure you scrub up for at least 20 seconds. Ready to take your lathering to the next level? Check out THIS AWESOME SONG by kiddie rock superstar Amelia Robinson of Mil's Trills! "Wash Your Hands" was developed for a workshop we co-led last year, getting toddlers and their parents to talk about poop. The song has eight fun motions that go along with it to help you make sure your whole hand is clean. Her jazzy ukelele is so catchy, you'll still be singing it way past the 20 second mark. And you don't have to think of someone's birthday to sing it.

[audio mp3="http://www.thepoopproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Wash-your-hands-full.mp3"][/audio]

(Is the audio player not working? No worries! Click here: Wash Your Hands by Amelia Robinson of Mil's Trills)

Ready for the motions? If it's got an asterisk next to it, make sure you do it once for each hand. We got these from an excellent educational program for Global Handwashing Day 2010 by Tippy Tap, Grampari and WMG India. You can read more about that program in the pdf report HERE.

handwashing motions 1 handwashing motions 2

Wishing you a happy handwashing holiday.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

AIDS and Sanitation: Accomplices in Crime

First off, thanks so much for all the recent attention we've been generating online.  If you're curious to know more about how we've been caught in the world wide web, take a look at our press page! That said, we wanted to talk about World AIDS Day, yet still things got kinda crappy...

Here at The POOP Project, we spend a lot of time talking about something that's normally left unsaid.  We think it's a pretty important job, and not one many others are willing to tackle.  Even though poop-related illnesses kill thousands of people every day, we mostly hear about these diseases euphemistically as "water-borne," or are led to think the crisis is "access to water."  In reality, the issue is sometimes not the water itself, but the presence of bacteria that come from the bowels. Everything is connected.

We already know that our reluctance to talk about the toilet impedes progress towards solving a sanitation crisis affecting 40% of our world population.  But have you ever thought about how sanitation issues might affect other, better-publicized crises?

Take malnutrition, for example. We've all seen pictures of suffering children who are barely more than skeletons, but may not have realized that contamination from poop causes the very diarrhea that makes them malnourished.  Similarly, the bloated bellies we're familiar with in the media comes from parasitic worms found in feces.

Poor sanitation also serves as a catalyst for malaria, as mosquitoes use public toilets, ditches, and other stagnant water as breeding grounds.  Malaria will only be defeated using a combination of methods, but maybe the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--which has made great progress by distributing nets, producing insecticides and researching a vaccine--could take a tip from Ghana, where they fought malaria by addressing sanitation.

As we take this day to honor those living with HIV/AIDS, it's important to remember that everything is connected.  To use some simple examples, if the water you're using to take your pills also gives you a good dose of hepatitis B, typhoid or giardia, is it still going to prolong your life?  There are many more long-lasting connections, and I encourage you to take a look at the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre for a number of informative articles on the topic.  The video below, by South Africa's Water Research Commission and Mvula Trust, follows a home healthcare worker in South Africa explaining why water/sanitation are crucial to addressing HIV/AIDS there. (Note that, although they address the notion that water, sanitation and hygiene all play a key role, water is the main feature.)


Wishing you health this World AIDS Day, and as always, peaceful pooping.

The Puru

Happy Global Handwashing Day!

Did you know that washing your hands with soap is one of the most cost-effective health care solutions on the planet?  Though nasty germs are everywhere, the ones on your hands can come into contact with (and thus spread disease through) innumerable other objects, eventually gaining access into your body when you scratch a small cut, rub your eyes or eat with your fingers.  Indulging in soapy, foamy, wet goodness all over your hands, between your fingers and under your nails (washing for at least 20 seconds) can drastically reduce the rate of infection, keeping adults at work, children in school, and all of us feeling productive, prosperous and happy.  Isn't that grand?

Unfortunately, for much of the developing world, there's a lot more at stake than a missed day at school.  According to UNICEF figures, close to 29,000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes.  That's 21 children each minute whose lives are lost to diarrhea, respiratory illnesses (pneumonia), malaria and many other dreadful illnesses that could be kept at bay through fairly simple means.  While some of these challenges are best met with vaccines and medicines, one pump of soap and a little bit of water is incredibly effective at stopping the spread of typhoid, cholera, giardia and infections--especially when done habitually after using the toilet.  (For more exact statistics, see the Handwashing Fact Sheet).

Before you put away that celebratory champagne, remember that today also happens to be Blog Action Day 2010: Water, sponsored by Change.org.  (I am happy to be posting today as a part of that.)  While every man, woman and child has the right to clean drinking water, it's important to note that "clean water" is often a euphemism that really means "poop-free water."  Every gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses and one million bacteria, so when people don't have toilets and poop gets in their water, or when they use the toilet but don't wash their hands with soap, it only takes a little bit to cause big trouble.

Water is the stuff of life; it sustains us, cleanses us, it's what we're mostly made of.  On a day like today, I encourage you to take a moment and acknowledge how lucky we are to turn on the tap and drink without fear.  If you can take a long shower, a hot bath, or flush a toilet, know that you might have it better than most of the world.  So go out there, indulge in what we've got--use the bathroom freely, wash your hands with relish, and eat messy finger foods.  With our thoughts, our donations, and our signatures on the petition line, soon the rest of the world will join us.