The global importance of hand-washing

Oct. 15, 2014

RYE BROOK, N.Y. — Taking the solution into our own hands.

RYE BROOK, N.Y. — Every year, 600,000 children will die from diarrheal diseases and more than 1.7 billion cases will be reported globally. According to UNICEF, diarrhea remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality. As deaths brought about by preventable diseases continue to rise, we need to take action to help bring change. One of the simplest and most inexpensive barriers to infection is hand-washing with soap. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50 percent.

Today, “Global Handwashing Day” offers us a timely opportunity to highlight the continued importance of the water industry sharing their valuable resources to educate and create sustainable solutions to a global problem which contributes to over 443 million lost school days per year, as reported by the United Nations Development Programme.

At Xylem Inc., a global water technology company, we are committed to finding solutions to the most critical water needs. That’s why, through Xylem Watermark, our corporate citizenship and social investment program, we’ve partnered with international nonprofits, including Water For People and Planet Water Foundation, to deliver sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene solutions. In particular with these two organizations, our partnership is centered on hosting school- and community-based water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education projects in vulnerable communities around the world.

Over the past year alone, Xylem's support of Water For People and Planet Water Foundation has provided clean water and hygiene education to thousands in communities around the world. Since October 2013, alongside Planet Water Foundation we have reached over 2,000 students through an activity-based water health and hygiene education program that is implemented in schools. The program teaches children about germs, how they spread and when to wash their hands. Similarly, with Water For People, in 2013 our partnership in India has allowed the implementation of 74 projects which have reached 72,900 beneficiaries with WASH education in their schools and communities.

Our innovative, sustainable and flexible approach to problem solving with our partners enables us to understand the most critical needs on the ground and work together to create sustainable community-based solutions. With a focus on educating children, we hope to decrease incidences of diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses, while increasing school attendance and improved academic performance resulting from lower absence rates due to illness.

We believe that the Global Handwashing Day mission to foster a global and local culture of hand-washing with soap is important and necessary to help solve the global water crisis.

Through our leadership, expertise and partnerships with organizations such as Water For People and Planet Water Foundation, we are taking actions into our own hands and helping to make a difference in communities that need it most. We ask the global water industry to join us as we continue to raise awareness of the importance of hand-washing and hygiene, especially in the most critical populations. Join us in making a mark on the global water crisis, because together we can make every drop count.

As part of the Xylem Watermark program, Xylem Inc. and Water For People – India implement WASH education programming in local schools to educate children on the importance of hand-washing.

Michael C. Fields is the director of corporate citizenship and social investment for Xylem Inc. He is responsible for developing the overall program strategy, development, execution and communication of Xylem’s corporate citizenship and social investment program, Xylem Watermark, which was created to provide and protect safe water resources in communities around the world.

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