Commentaries | Aug 31,2019
Jul 13 , 2019
By Kidist Yidnekachew
I have found myself doing it more times than I can count and yet it is always worse when I see others do it. It is something that most of us do, actually. Wondering what it is? Well, it is eating without washing our hands.
I am positive that most of us at one time or another have forgotten to wash our hands and just dive in. Maybe we were really hungry or maybe the place we were at did not either have a washing spot or soap or water. Regardless of what we learned in school about washing our hands with soap thoroughly before every meal, many of us have failed to do this simple task.
We have seen and heard of stories of people living in rural areas and how they were catching diseases like diarrhea, because they failed to wash their hands after using the bathroom in particular.
Here is what I find very amusing though. I mean I understand the rationale behind washing our hands after a meal. It is to get rid of the smell of food from our hands. But here is the thing that makes me laugh. Often we worry about what to do with our hands.
We go through so much trouble to wipe off the food from our hands, with women applying lotion and men drying their hands. Why can’t we give the same emphasis to washing our hands before meals?
We should at least consider the health consequences of not washing our hands, which include diarrhea, gastrointestinal illness, respiratory infections and skin and eye infections. More germs are found on our cell phones as opposed to the bathroom, which we all assume to be the dirtiest place. But they are also found on door knobs, computer mouses and keyboards, because so many people at offices touch these things very often throughout the day.
The other day I was sitting at a café with my boyfriend. We ordered some food, and when the food came, I was so hungry I jumped in. Then I realised I did not wash my hands. We both washed our hands before leaving the house, but along the road we bought stuff and touched a variety of items.
And then after we finished the meal, he stood up to wash his hands, and I said, being the hypocrite that I am, “why do you bother to wash your hands after you eat, when you were supposed to wash before?” He then turned to me and said, “there is more bacteria in the mouth than any part of the body. Besides I washed my hands before leaving the house.”
I have experienced similar incidents with my friends too. We order something at a café, and when the food comes, I get up to wash my hands and some of my friends say, “No, we have already washed.’’ Only God knows when!
Sometimes someone comes along and starts eating with me without washing their hands. At times I ask them to wash their hands before they sit down to eat with me or I feed them.
The other thing that I often find amazing is weddings. Imagine how many people come to weddings, and weddings are all about food, drinks and celebrations. Are we forgetting something here? I think we are - washing hands.
No one washes their hands at weddings unless they went to the bathroom first or spilled a drink trying to open it. I used to say for my wedding I would make people wash their hands first before serving the food. I would post signs that says “Wash your hands if you want to eat” and put arrows on the way that leads to the bathroom. I think most people would leave before they wash their hands.
Or I will hire someone strictly for this purpose. The person will stand with a big bucket of water and soap and will ‘mastateb’ the guests. ‘Mastateb’ roughly translates to an Ethiopian tradition or custom of pouring water into a collection basin while a guest washes their hands.
I don’t know, it is just a thought. But on a serious note, I think we should all develop the culture of washing our hands strictly before meals in order to stay healthy. Let me leave you with some facts I got from the Center for Disease Control.
“About 1.8 million children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world. Hand washing with soap could protect about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia. Although people around the world clean their hands with water, very few use soap to wash their hands. Estimated global rates of hand washing after using the toilet are only 19pc.”
PUBLISHED ON Jul 13,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1002]
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