There are around two million people who die each year from hygiene-related problems. What makes this even more unacceptable is that 9 out of 10 of them are children. There are too many people who don’t have access to basic hygiene options.
Everyone suffers when people don’t have the clean water they need to wash their hands, or some cultural taboo or stereotype says that they aren’t able to properly take part in society. It causes problems and people end up further apart rather than coming together. Society as a whole is being prevented from reaching its potential.
Don’t think that this issue only affects the developing world either. The SCA and the UN Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) recently published a global study that shows over a third of women in the U.S. feel uncomfortable being a part of social situations when on their period. This percentage was one of the highest in the world. Flint, Michigan is a place where the water has been contaminated for a few years now, and it’s also a place where CNN is reporting that some residents no longer bathe or wash their hands. Instead they use baby wipes to clean themselves rather than soap, which is better for cleaning the body.
These issues have been the focus of the SCA for decades now. The SCA teamed up with the WSSCC a few years ago to spread awareness about the link between health, hygiene, and overall well-being. They also wanted to break the taboos surrounding menstruation. They are working together again this year to improve hygiene practices over the world as part of the Hygiene Matters initiative SCA is running. This initiative is designed to get people all over the world talking about hygiene standards, educating people about hygiene, and giving policymakers recommendations on how to address the systemic hygiene problems around the world. They are also looking to inspire other organisations to join in and help in the fight against poor hygiene around the world.
Improving hygiene solutions and practices also comes with a reduction in business and healthcare costs. The UN is still collecting and analyzing data that will help them offer opportunities to create customized care systems, as well as customize products and services to handle specific hygiene problems. Simple solutions and products like Myrrh oil, which can be used for its cleansing properties for mouth and throat, have been on the agenda. One part of this is helping revolutionize the way that hundreds of nursing homes handle incontinence, which led to an improved quality of life for these patients while also reducing the costs for the managers of these facilities. They are continuing to develop away-from-home products and other smart solutions for washrooms to ensure that public restrooms have plenty of hygiene products, making sanitation workers more efficient.
As strange as it sounds, there are some parts of the world where women and young girls are forbidden to go to school or work while on their period. By educating these people about menstruation and helping men and women handle their incontinence, my hope is to improve workplace productivity. Female factory workers in Pakistan can end up missing out on three days of work a month due to being on their period. There are programs out there that are used to educate people on hygiene and provide women with menstruation products. These programs have proven effective and have reduced work absenteeism by up to 46%.
Of course, it’s impossible to solve every problem in the world, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t raise our voice to make a difference and create new ideas and solutions. We need to invest in hygiene education and share our knowledge and data to transform the attitudes people have towards hygiene along with their practices.
The SCA is calling on everyone, everywhere, to come together and ask what they could do to advocate and advance proper hygiene and sanitation. If we work together then we really can improve the lives of millions of people around the world. We can promote better health and well-being. If we all come together we really could create a significant change in the world. How does that old saying go? “Become the change you wish to see in the world.”