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Handwashing saves lives

OGB_118391_DEC images - Beira, Mozambique after Cyclone Idai.jpg
Oxfam aid worker Julia demonstrates good hygiene practice at a home in Beira, Mozambique, three months after Cyclone Idai. Photo: Peter Caton/DEC for Oxfam

Your reminder during the COVID-19 outbreak: Soap and water are—hands down—the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease

By now, many of us in the United and States and around the world are isolating in our homes due to COVID-19. With the rising death toll and increasing restrictions on our movement, it’s easy to feel panic or a sense of powerlessness.

While it may sound basic in the face of a pandemic, one of the best things you can do right now to protect yourself and others is to prevent the spread of germs by continuing to wash your hands. Hunkered down in your home, you may not think you have to be as vigilant as you would be in public, but it’s crucial to wash your hands—and to wash them thoroughly.

As a global humanitarian organization with decades of experience in water and sanitation work, our understanding of public health challenges has been informed by our response to past outbreaks, including cholera, the Zika virus, and Ebola. We have found that handwashing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease.

Sandy Stowe/Oxfam

What’s the proper way to wash your hands? Here’s a refresher:

  1. First, locate clean water and soap
  2. Wet your hands
  3. Lather up with your soap
  4. Rub your hands palm to palm
  5. Rub the backs of your hands
  6. Interlace your fingers
  7. Clean your nails
  8. Rub your thumbs
  9. Wash your wrists
  10. Rub your fingertips
  11. Dry off

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Kids—and kids at heart—may find it helpful to memorize 20 seconds of a favorite song.

You can help families stay by buying a gift of emergency soap.

Other ways to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Cough and sneeze into tissues or into a flexed elbow
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash food before eating, and avoid raw or uncooked food
  • Avoid using public transport if you do develop symptoms of flu.

How else can you slow the spread? Support Oxfam’s COVID-relief efforts, including delivering clean water, soap, and sanitation services to refugees and people living in high-risk environments.

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