Washing dishes may seem like a common enough practice, but did you know that not everyone in the world knows it’s necessary to wash their tableware? And if you – like me – don’t like washing dishes, this may sound like a pretty good idea. But let’s think about that for a minute.
A regular practice in developing countries is to leave dirty dishes lying in the dirt until they’re needed again. Water is scarce, so people don’t want to waste it on dishes – after all, they have to walk long distances to get all the water their families use in a day. But there’s another common practice that renders this idea not so great.
People also let their livestock wander around. Those animals are free to walk on, lick and leave droppings on the dishes. And other unsanitary things like cockroaches, lice, rats and flies also feed on whatever is on the dishes.
Now imagine a caring mother carefully cooking up her family’s only meal of the day. She wishes she could feed them more, but there just isn’t enough to eat more than once a day. She makes the food as tasty as she can with no spices, and she walks over to the dishes she just as carefully left lying in the dirt to dry after yesterday’s meal. She plucks the tableware out of the dirt, gives them a quick wipe to remove any remaining residue and puts her treasured children’s meal into the dishes. Unfortunately, she has included on the menu diseases that can kill her children.
The good news is that Food for the Hungry (FH) is teaching families about good hygiene and sanitation. We help families build dish drying racks like the one being used in the video at the end of this post. We teach mothers that washing dishes and hands is a good use of scarce water. They learn to decontaminate the water before washing their hands and dishes, and this woman is using ashes from her cook fire as soap – which serves as an inexpensive, germ-free scrubbing agent. Once the dishes are washed, we teach the women to thoroughly dry the dishes in the sun and off the ground to keep them disease free.
It dramatically reduces the incidence of diarrhea in children, which is a leading cause of child deaths worldwide.