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Over 80 Countries Mark World Handwashing Day

VOA News reports that more than 80 countries marked Global Handwashing Day Thursday. The news service writes that “[d]iarrhea is the third cause of death in West and Central Africa, which is responsible for 30 percent of the world’s deaths of children under the age of five.” According to UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, “Health experts suggest that if people [wash their hands] regularly, the incidence of diarrhea can be reduced by as much as 40 percent.” Handwashing with clean water is not always possible in part of Africa, says UNICEF’s Jane Bevan: “It is often a problem and we have to do as best we can, and quite often we are supporting schools to develop water supplies as well and also looking at alternatives solutions …” (Shryock, 10/15).

According to UNICEF, “despite its life-saving potential, handwashing with soap is seldom practised and is not always easy to promote,” IANS/Times of India reports. In India alone, diarrhea kills nearly 1,000 children under age 5 every day, UNICEF says. Using soap and water to wash hands is “one of the most effective and affordable health interventions,” reports the Times of India (10/16).

According to Xinhua, “higher rates of handwashing with soap would significantly contribute towards meeting the [Millennium Development Goal] 4 of reducing deaths of children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015” (10/15).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.