Meeting the Challenge of Cleanliness
By Awake! correspondent in Kenya
“MAMAAA, nakufa!,” the child cries. It means, “Mother, I am dying!” Attempted murder? No, a small child stands in a bowl and is being thoroughly scrubbed by his mother. In spite of vehement resistance, Mother completes her task!
Such scenes are common in Africa in even the poorest of neighborhoods. Nevertheless, maintaining hygienic standards is not always easy. The oppressively hot African climate makes the work of cleaning doubly hard. Dust storms cover every crevice of a house with fine brown powder. Deteriorating economic conditions make the cost of cleaning supplies, repairs—and even water—out of reach for many. In areas where women must walk miles each day to fetch water, they are understandably reluctant to use the precious commodity for washing.
Burgeoning populations in cities, as well as in some rural areas, also create health hazards. Open sewers, piles of uncollected garbage, filthy communal toilets, disease-carrying rats, cockroaches, and flies have become common sights.
Furthermore, a lack of knowledge of proper hygiene and sanitation is widespread. People contaminate water supplies without realizing the lethal consequences. Rats and other disease carriers are tolerated—even played with by children.
Why should families go to the trouble and expense of keeping things clean? Because bacteria and parasites thrive in dirty surroundings. So as simple a matter as washing could mean the difference between life and death for your child! True, cleanliness increases household expenses. Water used for washing may be costly or hard to obtain. But medicine is much more expensive. Soap, disinfectant, wax, a rattrap, and a garbage container also cost money but not as much as doctor bills.
Interestingly, in the Bible there are over 400 occurrences of words related to “clean,” “pure,” and “wash.” God’s Law to Israel had specific regulations that encouraged physical cleanness and good sanitary habits. (Exodus 30:18-21; Deuteronomy 23:11-14) The command to “love your neighbor” also motivates Christians to keep themselves and their homes clean.—Matthew 22:39.
The box on page 10 gives a helpful checklist of things that can be done around the house. The principles are applicable in any land. Some of the suggestions listed, such as waxing the floor (thus filling tiny cracks) and keeping garbage in a closed container, will make your home much less attractive to insects and other disease carriers. Repairing holes in doors and windows will keep out not only dust but also tiny intruders. And if nothing else, cleanliness will make your home a more pleasant place to live in!
After studying this checklist, a housewife may develop a regular cleaning schedule. If all family members cooperate, the schedule need not be burdensome.
Jecinta, for example, is a mother of eight children and lives in a small apartment in an East African city. When asked how she keeps her home so presentable, she said: “All have learned to do their part. If someone spills something, he is given a rag or other equipment to clean up. They have also been taught to be neat when eating.” A father can also cooperate with his wife and back up her efforts. He too can share in training young ones from a tender age to be neat and clean.
At times one can make the job of cleaning easier by taking preventive steps. For example, why not plant grass and trees near your house so as to reduce dust? Or try fencing off an area near your house so your children have a clean place to play. If your neighborhood is dangerously crowded, is it possible to find a dwelling in less crowded quarters? This may mean walking a bit farther to work, but it may be worth the effort.
Also, try discarding any useless items you have kept. This can free your home of needless clutter. And if the entranceway of your home is muddy after a rainstorm, why not cover the access to your entrance with gravel? If your home has an outside toilet, why not put a lock on it to prevent others from dirtying it?
The Right Attitude
Do not believe that only what can be seen needs to be clean. Some feel that while the front yard needs to be tidy, the backyard may as well be messy; that the sitting room has to be presentable, but the bedroom can be disorganized or the kitchen walls can be black from fingerprints and fumes. Such inconsistencies remind us of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “You cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of plunder . . . Cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside of it also may become clean.” (Matthew 23:25, 26) Admittedly, it is not always possible to have every part of the house in spotless condition. But is it not at least a worthwhile goal for cleanliness to reign throughout the home—not just sections of it?
It would also not be right to blame the landlord for unclean conditions. True, a paint job may be long overdue, but this does not mean that the walls could not at least be washed. And perhaps a deal could be worked out with the landlord that you would care for some of the household repairs yourself—in exchange for a lowered rent.
Will You Meet the Challenge?
“I did not believe it at first,” admits an African family head named Joseph. He refers to a Bible talk he heard on the subject of cleanliness. His family lives in a small wooden home, crowded among a dozen neighbors. It has a communal toilet and an unpaved walkway. Nevertheless, Joseph and his family tried applying these principles in their home. “My children now wear sandals, we wipe our feet, we wash our hands with soap and water and take other cleaning precautions,” says Joseph. The result? “I was surprised. The children are sick much less often, and we do not have all these hospital expenses anymore.”
So with relatively little expense and effort, parents in developing lands can make their homes safe, clean places for themselves and their children. Obviously, though, much more needs to be done to solve the developing world’s health problems. Is there reason to believe that large-scale efforts will meet with success?
[Blurb on page 9]
Soap, disinfectant, wax, a rattrap, and a garbage container cost money but not as much as doctor bills
[Box on page 10]
A Clean and Sanitary Home—A Checklist
Flush toilet after use
For a ‘long drop’ toilet, or privy, use chemicals against insects
Wash hands with soap and water after using toilet
Wash toilet seat and bowl, sink, and other toilet-room items with disinfectant regularly
Wash hands with soap and water before preparing and serving food
Keep garbage in container with lid; dispose of garbage regularly
Do not leave utensils dirty overnight
Wash vegetables and fruit thoroughly before use
If food preparation is done outside, do not let plates and utensils touch the ground. Do not allow dust to blow onto food
Clean corners of floor and cupboards weekly
Wash baby bottles in hot water
Boil drinking water where the supply is contaminated
Keep dirty clothes to be washed in a basket or other container
Wash clothes regularly with fresh laundry water
Wax wooden doors, floors, and furniture periodically
Spot-clean walls, doors, and light switches
Trap and kill rats; kill cockroaches and other insects
Check bed periodically for bedbugs and other pests
Keep a floor mat or moist rag at entrance for cleaning of feet
Fill holes in walls and doors, cracks in floors
Replace broken windowpanes
Repair ripped mattresses and upholstered furniture
Bury or burn garbage
Remove or bury human or animal droppings
Divert open sewers from coursing through yard by digging a channel
[Box on page 11]
Teach Your Household—Dos and don’ts for neighborhood cleanliness
To wipe feet when entering a home or other building
To wear shoes or sandals
To flush toilet after use
To wash hands with soap and water after using toilet and before eating
To wipe a runny nose
To wear shirts, trousers, or a dress when sitting on the ground
What not to touch: