How We Learn to Wash our Hands

This is a post about water and sanitation in rural Indonesia and a collective attempt at making things better at one school. This is a continuation on my theme of finding and adapting existing solutions to common problems in my “neighborhood.” This is an essay about real people and the circumstances we find ourselves in. This is my story about how we learn to wash our hands.

Statistics rarely express the depth and nuance of a problem but they make for a decent starting point. Here’s one I’ve had on my mind for a while now: over 40% of Indonesians lack access to proper sanitation. That’s roughly the combined populations of France and the U.K.

I’m reminded of this statistic each time I see people defecate in the open. Some folks here use the river because they have no other means. When sewage escapes the river, when people use stagnant water, or fail to wash with soap, it often leads to preventable diseases like amoebas, tapeworms, E. coli, Typhoid fever or worse. Each year over 50,000 people die from diarrhea alone. This should be alarming.

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