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Eastern and Southern Africa, 15 October 2010: Global Handwashing Day partners lather up with millions around the world

Handwashing with soap could save lives of millions

NAIROBI, 15 October 2010 - For the third annual Global Handwashing Day (GHD), more than 200 million schoolchildren, parents, teachers, celebrities and government officials around the world will lather up, but at the end of the day, they aim to have more than just clean hands.

This year the theme of Global Handwashing Day – more than just a day – seeks to make the simple, life-saving practice of washing hands a regular habit long after the sun sets on October 15.

Each year, diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections are responsible for the deaths of more than 3.5 million children under the age of five. In the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR), more than 250,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases every year, accounting for 15 percent of all under-five deaths in the region.

Handwashing with soap (HWWS) is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhoeal diseases. If practiced at the critical times - after using the toilet and before handling food – HWWS helps reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by nearly 50 percent, and acute respiratory infections by about 25 percent. Yet this simple behaviour is not practiced regularly.

“Teaching children from an early age to wash their hands with soap and water will have a positive impact on their lives. Children can also be true agents of change and promote such a life-saving behaviour in their families and communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director Elhadj As Sy. “Global Handwashing Day shines a spotlight on this simple practice, reminding us that the easiest and most affordable solutions can also be the most effective ones.”

On 15 October, UNICEF will work with key government and development partners across the region to bring handwashing with soap to the top of the hygiene agenda, and to have some fun whilst doing so.

Activities in ESAR will revolve around three main objectives - advocacy to raise awareness among the general public and key decision-makers on the importance of HWWS; education focused on school age children to increase knowledge on why HWWS is important and to lay the foundations for healthy lifelong habits; and behaviour change particularly with an emphasis on taking HWWS beyond GHD.

Kenya will hold their national GHD celebration in Busia. Burundi will have various televised or radio-broadcast panel discussions led by key ministries and UNICEF. In Eritrea, a mass media campaign will be translated into all 9 local languages. In advance of the day Ethiopia has been preparing the ground with information sessions for decision-makers at all levels of government, media and religious leaders.

Countries from Angola to Zambia will be broadcasting HWWS cartoons, jingles and announcements supported by a wide range of champions, including Pedrito do Bie, a young Angolan musician, the Wiggles, popular Australian children’s entertainers and UNICEF’s partner in raising awareness about HWWS, and not forgetting SOPO, an animated bar of soap who educates children about proper hygiene practices through an innovative cartoon series. The power of the private sector will also be harnessed. For example in Angola 5 million HWWS text messages will be sent free of charge to users across the country. Zimbabwe will actively involve public transport in disseminating messages.

In Malawi, GHD will be “more than just a day” with the launch of a three-month intensive HWWS campaign aimed at community-based child care centres. In Uganda GHD will help build towards the longer term behavioural change programming with the official launch of the national Handwashing with Soap Campaign in 29 of the country's 111 districts.

Throughout the region, children will also take the centre stage in many of the GHD celebrations. In Ethiopia, school children will take part in an essays, poems, drawing and songs competition. In Madagascar, children will see the fun side of handwashing through the use of puppetry, demonstrations and music by local artists. And in Zambia, one million pamphlets featuring “Sara”, the beloved cartoon character by children, will be distributed.


The global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap is a coalition of international stakeholders focusing on the importance of handwashing and child health. Established in 2001, the partnership aims to give families, schools, and communities in developing countries the power to prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections by supporting the universal promotion and practice of proper handwashing with soap at critical times.

Included among the coalition’s 14 international stakeholders are: the Academy for Educational Development; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Colgate-Palmolive; International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research; Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Procter & Gamble; The Water and Sanitation Program; The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; The World Bank; UNICEF; Unilever; USAID and WaterAid.

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For further information, please contact:

Sophie Hickling, UNICEF Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist
Tel: +254 20 762 1086 Email:

Kun Li, UNICEF Communication Specialist
Tel: +254 20 762 2218   Email:



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