Proper Hand Washing Saves Lives


WILLS POINT, Texas — According to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, hand washing with soap, even before preparing food, is rarely practiced in many poor countries – leading to the rapid spread of deadly bacteria, diarrhea and pneumonia in young children.

While Americans take washing their hands for granted, thousands of children in Asia die every year because their families don’t wash their hands properly, mission agency Gospel for Asia (GFA, ) reported marking Global Handwashing Day, October 15.

Global Handwashing Day

Under the theme “Clean Hands for All,” Global Handwashing Day promotes the vital importance of proper hand washing with soap to prevent diseases and save lives.

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“In many parts of Asia, simple hygiene practices that are commonplace in America are virtually unknown,” GFA founder, Dr. K.P. Yohannan, said. “Because of this, millions of children suffer, and thousands die every year.”

Each year, more than 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die from chronic diarrhea, states a special GFA report titled “Solutions to Poverty-Line Problems of the Poor and Impoverished.” Proper hand washing practices, however, can slash incidents of potentially fatal diarrhea, says the report.

‘Do-It-Yourself Solution’

“Hand washing with soap is a ‘do-it-yourself solution’ that prevents infections and saves lives,” said Yohannan, whose Texas-based ministry has served the poorest of the poor in Asia for four decades. “The governments throughout Asia are doing good work to combat hygiene-related diseases. The need is vast, however, and much still needs to be done.”

“Teaching children the importance of washing their hands with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways of preventing disease,” Yohannan said. “It can save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter.”

‘Hands-On’ Intervention

GFA-supported national workers stage “hands-on” demonstration events throughout Asia – often at local churches and GFA-supported Bridge of Hope centers – to promote proper hand washing in communities where children lack the most basic hygiene skills.

“Just as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, we see our efforts as an expression of God’s love for all people,” Yohannan said.

One child at a GFA-supported Bridge of Hope center, Abhaya, learned how to wash her hands at a GFA-supported hand washing event.

“Last time I got sick, the doctor was asking me: ‘Did you wash your hands properly?’” Abhaya said. “But the doctor did not teach me how to wash my hands properly, so I thank you for showing me.”

Poor hygiene not only affects children’s health, but also their education, causing them to miss school and fall behind in their studies. One study in China showed that children who were taught to wash their hands with soap missed 54 percent fewer days of school than students who had no hand washing instruction or soap.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, Gospel for Asia (GFA, ) is a leading faith-based mission agency, bringing vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially to those who have yet to hear the “good news” of Jesus Christ.

In GFA’s latest yearly report, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,000 clean water wells drilled, over 11,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 200,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at

The author of this story, Michael Ireland, is a self-supported media missionary with ANS. Click here to support him as a missionary journalist.