For most of us, washing our hands is an automatic response after using the bathroom or before sitting down to eat. We learned this from our parents and it was reinforced in our schools. But there are entire populations around the world who either don’t have access to soap and water or haven’t been taught how this simple act can prevent them from illnesses such as flu and diarrhea, which are potentially lethal.
The two biggest causes of childhood mortality in the developing world today are diarrheal disease and respiratory infections. The simple act of washing hands with soap can cut diarrhea risk by almost a half, and respiratory tract infection by a third. This makes hand washing a better option for disease prevention than any single vaccine.
Hand washing, however, is a lot more complicated when you live in a slum without access to running water. As a part of ICM’s Transform program, ICM’s health trainers teach ultra-poor communities how to overcome the obstacles preventing good hygiene. One way is the building of “Tippy Taps” for hand washing stations, using commonly found materials around their homes.
The soap, however, which is essential for killing bacteria, is more of a challenge. When parents have to choose between soap and food, soap usually looses. Fortunately, ICM has been partnering with Soap Cycling, a Hong Kong based nonprofit that collects and recycles unused and “gently used” soap from the local hospitality industry that would otherwise be thrown away. Soap Cycling’s goal is to distribute this soap to underprivileged families and schools in disadvantaged communities around the world, particularly in Asia.
Earlier this year, Soap Cycling, ICM and volunteers from Credit Suisse and other corporate partners had different “packing days” to assemble a total of 1,200 “Tippy Tap Kits” for distribution to poor families in Iloilo impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. Each kit contained three bars of soap, rope and a nylon stocking, as well as instructions for building the Tippy Taps.
Soap Cycling’s Director, Beau Lefler, and his family recently traveled to the Philippines to see tippy tap kits in action.
Beau and his wife, Amy, said it was good to see where the soap goes and how the participants are using it so effectively. “It’s not just a ton of soap given away. People who receive soap are judicious about how they use it, and come up with creative ways to deal with their limited resources. There is no lack of initiative in these communities!”
They go on to say, “One of the most important things is making sure that people know when to wash your hands. ICM understands the culture in the Philippines and incorporates important lessons. They teach that soap helps prevent diseases that lead to malnutrition, flu and diarrhea.” About 6,500 boys and girls, mom and dads from 1,300 families who received the Soap Cycling Tippy Tap Kits are now enjoying healthier hygiene.
A special thank you to Soap Cycling and Credit Suisse, and other corporate ICM partners, who have help tremendously in aiding these communities – you truly are saving lives!