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Facts for Life


Supporting Information


All family members, including children, need to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with faeces, before touching or preparing food, and before feeding children. Where soap is not available, a substitute, such as ash and water, can be used.

Washing the hands with soap and water removes germs. Rinsing the fingers with water is not enough – both hands need to be rubbed together with soap and water, and then rinsed with water. This helps to stop germs and dirt from getting onto food or into the mouth. Washing hands can also prevent infection with worms. Soap and water should be placed conveniently near the latrine or toilet. Where soap is not available, ash and water can be used.

  • It is especially important to wash the hands with soap after defecating and after cleaning the bottom of a baby or child who has just defecated. It is also important to wash hands after handling animals and raw foods.
  • Hands should always be washed before preparing, serving or eating food, and before feeding children. Children should be taught to wash both hands rubbed together with soap after defecating and before eating to help protect them from illness.

Children often put their hands into their mouths, so it is important to wash their hands often, especially after they have been playing in dirt or with animals. Washing a child's body regularly is also important to avoid skin infections.

Children are easily infected with worms, which deplete the body's nutrients. Worms and their eggs can be found in human and animal faeces and urine, in surface water and soil, and in poorly cooked meat.

  • Children should not play near the latrine, toilet or defecation areas. Shoes or sandals should be worn near latrines to prevent worms from entering the body through the skin of the feet.
  • Children living in areas where worms are common should be treated two to three times per year with a recommended deworming medication.

Washing hands with soap and water after handling poultry or poultry products, after touching eggs and raw meat, and after cleaning the place where poultry is kept can also help prevent the spread of germs and avian influenza (bird flu).