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     Volume 8 Issue 91 | October 23, 2009 |

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Global Hand Washing Day
On October 15, Global Hand Washing Day was celebrated around the world, with ritual hand-washing clinics, much discussion about the disease-preventing benefits of hand-washing and an important study to explore what messages work best in promoting the use of soap in hand-washing. Let's face it -- water doesn't kill germs, soap does!
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine spent several months leading up to last year's Global Hand-washing Day peering through a camera's lens at men and women using a service station's restroom at a major crossroads in Britain. Their challenge: to gauge not only how many people actually use soap when they wash their hands, but also what messages -- flashed onto LED screens at the entrance to the toilets -- will most effectively induce people to use soap when they wash their hands?
The study found:
Men are basically gross: less than a third of them used soap when they washed their hands. And they responded best to hand-washing-reminder messages that invoked disgust, such as “Wash it off now or eat it off later.”
Women are not as gross, though there is room for improvement. Fully twice as many women (64%) used soap. And women seemed especially receptive to messages that were "reminders" of good-hygiene measures they were presumed to know already, such as the always appropriate “Water doesn't kill germs....”
In Bangladesh, we are already behind in basic personal hygiene. People spit on the streets, and urinate against lamp posts. In a tropical country where germs proliferate easily, and health care facilities are sadly lacking, the importance of a basic technique like hand washing cannot be ignored. Hand washing can save us from epidemics such as Swine Flu. A recent Unicef study found that out of all the children who die of diarrhea every year, several hundred could be saved simply by remembering to wash the hands. So let us celebrate Hand Washing Day everyday -- and use soap when we do it!
Dr. Mansura Akhtar Shammi
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University

Affair with Cars
In Dhaka city, pedestrian safety is in the dark ages. With hundreds of new motor cars hitting city roads daily, the situation is worsening further. It is high time we woke up to this and other damaging effects of the motor car. The love affair with the car must stop. The pain far outweighs the pleasure.
Syed Badrul Haque
Lalmatia, Block- A
Dhaka- 1207

On Roads for Life

It was sad to read the Interview (Oct 16th) with Stein Lundebye, the Road Safety expert and former Senior Engineer for the World Bank. He spent several years in Bangladesh, producing a huge programme to improve road safety but five years later found that very few of his recommendations had been implemented. His frank comment, “You can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink” -- is a clear reminder that you can give good advice but if those whom it benefits refuse to act upon it, it is useless.
Nowadays we read of ambitious new government plans for education. I wonder if those responsible have studied the past reports on big, expensive, government educational projects (usually with a few foreigners and a larger number of Bangladeshi advisers) or if those reports too are gathering dust on a shelf! I saw in action a team from one project who visited the government-funded school where I was teaching, asked us to research the reasons for school drop-outs and returned to assess the results. I was impressed by their work and I'm sure that the report they left behind had advice worth taking. However, a Canadian woman member who had spent 20 of her 30 years in educational consultancy in Bangladesh said, as Stein Lundebye implied, that she did not feel that anything she had done here had made any difference at all.
How long will donors go on funding expensive projects whose results are ignored? When will the Bangladesh government cut out bureaucratic red tape and implement measures that can make a real difference in people's lives? As Stein Lundebye said, there must be political will!
Margaret Vercoe
Gulshan, Dhaka

Garage Your Egos!
The government ministers and bureaucrats should stop talking about their eternal plans for the freeways, monorails, STPs, DUTPs, and all other TPs for now, because the traffic situation in Dhaka needs an immediate solution. Make no mistake: there are solutions that can make a difference.
Here is what I think should be the first phase in simple words: 1) No Parking on public thoroughfares. 2) Cars, without valid fitness certificates, tax tokens, unlicensed should be seized. 3) Empty (only driver), half-empty (one passenger in the back) fined on main/trunk roads between 8 AM and 8 PM. 4) Car loans from banks suspended 5) I/T clearance that car is declared in I/T records 6) Cars restricted to one per family (I know of one having 18 cars for 3 members), 7) All fake driving licenses cancelled. 8) Import of cars in excess of 1,000 cc banned for 5 years. 9) All other existing traffic laws relative to lights, horns, etc to be enforced. 10) The potholes and paddy fields, masquerading as roads, must be filled in/repaired.
I appeal to all our 'public servants' and the privileged few to garage their cars and their egos and give Dhaka a chance to breathe. In this context, the latest news of the Cabinet okaying new timings for GOB, NGO offices, banks, schools etc to solve the congestion is, to say the least, hilarious. The quotation comes to mind “The ostrich in trouble buries its head in sand.” Only now, the Ostrich residing in Kahn's White Elephant stables is digging deeper into the (quick)sand!!!
Sikander Ahmed
Niketon, Gulshan-1, Dhaka -1212

In last Week's Endeavour piece “Shopno Moder Manush Hobo” Shireen Rahman was inadvertently referred to as the Director of Programme for Sustainable Development. Shireen Rahman is the President of PSD.

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