Importance Of Handwashing Highlighted Through Events In 80 Countries

Noting that Friday is Global Handwashing Day, the Los Angeles Times writes, “Every year, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections cause the death of more than 3.5 million children under age 5. These figures could be cut dramatically if handwashing with soap were widely practiced, experts say.”

The effort to improve handwashing is led by “the Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, which includes support from UNICEF, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, and soap producers such as Unilever” (Shrieves, 10/14). “More than 200 million children, teachers, celebrities, parents and government officials will wash their hands on third annual Global Hand-washing Day” to promote “behavioral change,” TopNews Arab Emirates reports (Sandhu, 10/15).

The Los Angeles Times continues, “Washing hands with soap at critical times – after contact with feces and before handling food – could reduce diarrheal rates by up to 47 percent, researchers say. However, rates of handwashing with soap remain low throughout the developing world and large-scale promotion of handwashing behavior change is a challenge.” The day’s events, which 80 countries will take part in, are focused on school-aged children and women of reproductive age (10/14).

U.S. Under Secretary of State Maria Otero “reinforced the United States’ commitment to addressing the challenges surrounding water, sanitation and health (WASH)” Wednesday, saying that “the U.S. government will begin a new partnership with the Millennium Water Alliance, Global Water Challenge, and the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group to highlight water, sanitation and health issues in developing countries,” according to a State Department press release. The initiative will “enable Ambassadors and other senior U.S. officials to engage host government and local communities” on water, sanitation and health and “its relationship to health, education, and gender equity” (10/13).

Countries Mark Global Handwashing Day

IRIN writes, “In Afghanistan, ‘diarrhoea and waterborne diseases are common due to low coverage of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities,’ said Nadarajah Moorthy, a water, sanitation and hygiene expert with UNICEF in Afghanistan.” The article highlights the lack of resources available to Afghan school children, including soap and handwashing facilities. “If schools don’t have buildings or classrooms, how can there be toilets and safe drinking water facilities?” asked Education Ministry Spokesman Gul Agha Ahmadi.

For Global Handwashing Day, “1,700 schools in different parts of the country will mark the day with free soap donated by UNICEF,” which also invests $5 million each year in school water and sanitation facilities in the country (10/13).

The Daily Monitor discusses Uganda’s programs for Global Handwashing Day, including campaigns by the Ministry of Health “in partnership with Lifebuoy and the World Bank.” The newspaper continues, “[s]tatistics from the National Hand washing campaign indicate only 20 percent of the Ugandan population washes their hands with soap at critical times such as before eating.” The article quotes Chris Musumba, national hand washing coordinator, Mark Kivuna of Unilever Uganda, and Julian Kyomuhangi a representative of the Ministry of Health (Nuwagaba, 10/14).

The Himalayian News Service/Himalayian Times reports on efforts in Nepal, where 14 million people “do not have access to sanitation and 7.1 million lack access to safe drinking water.” According to the article, Nepal’s health ministry on Global Handwashing Day is aiming “to create a platform for systematic handwashing programme focusing on advocacy, promotion and behaviour change.” The ministry’s Laxmi Narayan Deo explained that “[h]andwashing with soap and water is one of the most affordable and effective interventions to prevent deaths of children under the age of five” (10/14).

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