UNICEF AND MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND YOUTH CALL ATTENTION TO GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY: CLEAN HANDS SAVE LIVES
Belize City, 18 October 2011 - United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY) are calling attention to a simple, yet overlooked preventative action to improve health: handwashing. It is also referred to as a “do it yourself vaccine”!
Each year at least 3.5 million children under the age of five lose their lives to diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections. In Belize, in an effort to prevent these diseases, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) was initiated in schools. This national and global effort aims at creating a world where all children go to a school that provides a safe, healthy and comfortable environment where children grow, learn and thrive.
The third annual Global Handwashing Day was celebrated on 15 October worldwide and once again it sought to call attention to the importance of handwashing with soap and water as one of the most effective and least costly health activities that can be done very simply wherever you are. Schools across the country have planned their own activities and selected schools countrywide are participating in a Global School Health Survey which includes a component on hygiene practices. If disease prevention is to occur, water alone is not enough. When supported with educational activities, washing hands with soap and water especially at the critical times -- after using the toilet and before handling food --decreases the chances of diarrhoeal disease by nearly 50 per cent and respiratory infections by nearly 23 per cent, two of several leading causes of hospitalizations of children in Belize. (Situation Analysis 2011)
Yet, research demonstrates that handwashing with soap is rarely practiced and not always easy to promote despite major benefits and life-saving potential. Although soap is available in most households in Belize and the world, observed rates of handwashing with soap at critical moments range from zero to 34 per cent. It has been recognized that more needs to be done with children and their families to encourage them to adopt handwashing with soap. Throughout next year, the MOEY in partnership with UNICEF, will continue interventions to strengthen WASH facilities in schools while promoting proper hygiene practices.
Clean hands, water and sanitation do save lives. Unsafe water and inadequate sanitation are often major causes of lost work and missed school days, perpetuating the cycle of economic and social degradation in many countries. The introduction of water, sanitation and hygiene education in schools, is an excellent entry point for children to understand and then take these good hygiene practices back into their homes and communities. Further investments in health, child survival, education, water supply, and sanitation are all enhanced with the promotion of a simple yet very easy action: handwashing with soap, a cornerstone of public health!
UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Youth, called on all children and their families to join the millions of children worldwide and keep lathering up to make global Handwashing Day every day and to continue doing so to ensure better health.
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