Below is part of the text of a feature on the WHO website. The full text is freely available here:

Sierra Leone: Helping health workers protect patients with clean hands

May 2015

In Ebola-affected countries, like Sierra Leone, the lack of running water can make hand hygiene a challenge. Hand hygiene is so important in public health that 5 May every year is marked as Hand Hygiene Day.

Dr Komba Songu-Mbriwa is a doctor on the frontlines of the Ebola fight in Sierra Leone who also knows the challenges of the disease firsthand. He is an Ebola survivor. But today, he says his most important role extends beyond Ebola as a protector of other health workers. His specialty: teaching his colleagues how to protect themselves and other patients from the spread of all infectious diseases when patients are being cared for in health facilities.

“Hands are the main way in which germs spread in health care settings,” says Dr Songu-Mbriwa.

Hand Hygiene Day

Not just in Sierra Leone but across the world, the simplest and most important action to block the spread of disease in health facilities is ensuring that health workers consistently clean their hands properly. It is so important in public health that 5 May every year is marked as Hand Hygiene Day.

More information on Hand hygiene in the control of Ebola and health system strengthening

Overcoming the lack of running water

“More and more of our health workers colleagues understand this,” says Dr Songu-Mbriwa. “But beyond understanding, we must make it easy and accessible for them to clean their hands often. It’s one thing to repeat ‘Wash your hands’, but what if there is no running water?”…

Creating a culture of infection prevention and hand hygiene among health workers in Sierra Leone is essential for stopping the Ebola outbreak. But, he [Dr Komba Songu-Mbriwa] adds, with the right skills consistently applied, his colleagues will be better placed to respond to future outbreaks.

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