During the Black Death of the 14th century where between 75 million to 200 million lives were lost, the Jews of Europe recorded a significantly lower death rate than other communities.
Sanitation research would later reveal that hand-washing prescribed by their religion protected them against the global epidemic.
But hand-washing as a health care prerogative did not really gain mass popularity till the mid-1800s, when a young Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis did an important observational study at Vienna General Hospital.
The leading cause of maternal mortality in Europe at that time was puerperal fever, and it killed many postpartum women at the hospital.
Dr Semmelweis, having specialized in obstetrics, found a solution to the puerperal fever mystery after the death of his friend Jakob Kolletschka, a pathologist.
Dr Kolletschka died after receiving a scalpel wound while performing an autopsy on a woman who had died of puerperal fever. His autopsy revealed massive infection from puerperal fever.
After discovering that chloride solution could get rid objects of their odours, Dr Semmelweis mandated hand-washing across his department.
Starting in May 1847, anyone entering the hospital had to wash their hands in a bowl of chloride solution. The incidence of puerperal fever and death subsequently dropped by the end of the year.
Using that very sanitation inspiration, Tippy Tap Kenya, a local community-based organization dedicated to creating awareness and solutions to barriers of accessing WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) has been moving through Nairobi’s public zones spreading the gospel of hand-washing.
“We seek to empower institutions, commercial and public spaces with an all-round sustainable, innovative solution for observing hand hygiene as a preventive health measure against the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases,” Kennedy Aluoch, the chief executive said.
The organization has been installing various types of hand hygiene devices in public places to help populations wash hands, establishing a sustainable supply of hand sanitizers and liquid soap.
Research has it that over 95 percent of institutions, commercial and public premises in Kenya lack sustainable and efficient amenities for the public to utilize in matters of observing frequent hand hygiene.
“By providing a diverse range of our innovative solutions to both public and private premises enable the general public to embark on their normal activities hence help jumpstart the economy,” he added.
Partnering with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and Lifebuoy, Tippy Tap has installed the devices at Kawangware Primary School, Doctors Without Borders, Kariobangi South Primary School, Mwangaza Primary School, Rens Academy, Green Woods Academy, Jesus Revival School, Mabe Twinkling Stars, King Queen Academy and Kibiku Primary School.
Four different types of water and soap dispensing machines, that have been locally assembled have been used to serve Nairobi residents for free.
The triple-pedal tap, for instance, dispenses water and soap separately serving three users simultaneously while saving on time, water and soap used per wash.
The G-5 dispenser dispenses alcohol-based sanitizing solutions, serving four users while the G-3 wall dispenser serves three users.
“The G-6 dispenser releases alcohol-based sanitizing solution and serves six users at a go and can be placed in places like restaurants and supermarkets where people have to line up waiting to sanitize their hands,” said Mr Aluoch.
The current Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly changing mindsets about how humans regard hand hygiene, with world governments advocating for compulsory hand-washing by citizens to control the spread of diseases whose causative agents remain on surfaces for long.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of alcohol-based formulations, as the preferred means for routine hygienic hand antisepsis if hands are not visibly soiled.
“It is faster, more effective, and better tolerated by your hands than washing with soap and water. If exposure to potential spore-forming pathogens is strongly suspected or proven, hand washing with soap and water is the preferred means,” WHO advises.