This morning I was reminded by my second grader son that today is a holiday with an actual message and purpose-- it’s Global Handwashing Day. Simply, it’s a day to educate and motivate people around the world to wash their hands with soap on a regular basis. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of the fact that handwashing with soap is a key element in preventing disease.
Last year Global Handwashing Day was initiated as part of the annual World Water Week. According to the official site, the focus for Global Handwashing Day, like last year, is on school children. And with the inevitable flu season just around the corner, handwashing with soap is the single most effective and inexpensive way to prevent flu, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections like pneumonia, which is the number one cause of death among children under five years old. Diarrhea and pneumonia together account for almost 3.5 million child deaths annually. Regular handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet is projected to 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.
And needless to say there are a bevy of kids songs just about handwashing, and these songs are destined to get stuck in the old noggin for several days to come. Unfortunately, washing your hands with soap and hot water will not prevent what Dr. Oliver Sack calls amusia; the disorder in which impaired musical processing prevents the ear from recognizing musical tones or rhythms, beautiful music may very well sound like the clattering of a toddler in the kitchen with a couple of large ladles and a floor full of pots and pans. Some of these songs I have cued up may just have that effect on the adult brain. Then again, if you’re lucky you’ll just be subject to earworms; the maddening condition where musical fragments repeat incessantly.
Anyway, here are some musical odds and ends about handwashing from the likes of Handwashing with Soapy, a Beatles parody, a weirdly paranoid Henry the Hand spreading fear and cleanliness, and of course, a selection from the most successful musical act in the world-- the Wiggles.