NEW YORK, 15 October 2013 – As the world observes the 6th annual Global Handwashing Day, new figures from UNICEF say 1,400 children under five still die every day from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene.
“The simple act of handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to save children’s lives,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes. “Washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrhoeal disease and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children and communities.”
According to UNICEF, diarrhoea remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality globally. With 600,000 children dying in each year and over 1.7 billion cases, diarrhoeal diseases are also associated with a higher risk of stunting (low weight for age and developmental delay) and take a huge toll on society. However, one of the simplest and most inexpensive barriers to infection is handwashing with soap.
Global Handwashing Day events around the world are helping promote handwashing and raise awareness of the crucially important role it plays in child survival and overall community health.
In Ethiopia around 5 million children will participate in handwashing demonstrations and workshops around the country.
In Yemen, Global Handwashing Day celebrations will take place in 3,300 schools, involving 1.4 million children. There will also be a mass media campaign aimed at sensitizing the public around hand washing.
One thousand school children in Viet Nam; 450 primary schools in Sierra Leone and 424 in Mali; 200 schools in 50 communities in the Gambia; 12 cities in Indonesia and 22 educational institutions in several municipalities in Bolivia – all will be holding Global Hand Washing Day activities.
This year’s theme, announced by the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing, which includes UNICEF, is "The power is in your hands" because, the Partnership says, everyone has the power to create healthier communities through handwashing with soap.
“The evidence is clear. Each individual—every mother, every child, every teacher, every member of every community—can contribute to the health of all by just washing their hands,” said Wijesekera. “If you knew of something monumental that could benefit the world, you would do it. Everyone has this power – simply wet, lather and rinse - with soap and water.”
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About Global Handwashing Day:
Global Handwashing Day is celebrated on October 15. The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap initiated Global Handwashing Day in 2008, and it is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe. Visit www.globalhandwashingday.org
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For further information, including interviews or a detailed list of activities globally, please contact:
Rita Ann Wallace, UNICEF New York,
Tel: 1 212-326-7586, Mobile: 1 917-213-4034
Caroline den Dulk
Chief, Advocacy & Communications, UNICEF India
Tel: +91 98181 06093
Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-995 817 6291
Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India