The City of Cape Town’s health department is going around the metro this October, spreading the word on how handwashing can kill germs and save lives.Global Handwashing Day is commemorated annually on 15 October to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of washing ones hands with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. It comes just weeks before the start of the so-called “surge season”, when there is an increase in diarrhoea cases. While it is a common ailment that is both preventable and treatable, diarrhoea remains a leading cause of death in young children, particularly in developing countries. During the last surge season, the City’s health department recorded 20 080 cases of diarrhoea and 10 346 cases of pneumonia in children under the age of five.“The City has, in consultation with various partners, devised a strategy in recent years that has seen a dramatic decline in the number of severe diarrhoea cases and fatalities. The strategy revolves around early detection and treatment, but prevention too is an important factor,” says Mayco member for health and community services, Zahid Badroodien.“A review of more than 30 studies found that handwashing with soap decreases diarrhoea incidence by 44%, where further evidence suggests that respiratory illness can be decreased by 20% with better handwashing practices. “The statistics underscore the importance of Global Handwashing Day, but also continued education and awareness.”The theme for Global Handwashing Day this year is “Clean Hands for All”.On Saturday 12 October, City Health hosted an interactive event to advocate for the importance of handwashing, in collaboration with other City departments and non-governmental organisation, Gift of the Givers. Central to the event was an Amazing Race, where teams had to collect various items along the way to assemble a ‘squeeze bottle’ – a simple device consisting of a 2 litre bottle and a piece of irrigation pipe that allows for handwashing anywhere, while saving water. “The squeeze bottle is a cheap and effective way of washing one’s hands if there are no taps close by. It is also a fun way of teaching small children the importance of handwashing, which uses much less water than a regular tap and is more hygienic than sharing a bowl of water to wash hands,” says Badroodien. A guide to handwashing . wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap; . lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap and be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails; . rub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice; . rinse your hands well under clean, running water; . dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. When to wash your hands . before, during, and after preparing food; . before eating food; . before and after caring for someone who is sick; . before and after treating a cut or wound; . after using the toilet and after changing nappies or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; . after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; . after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste and after handling pet food or pet treats; . after handling garbage.