At a glance: Haiti

In Haiti, Global Handwashing Day empowers children in the fight against cholera

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 19 October 2011 – Catchy lyrics and colorful t-shirts are helping children in Haiti learn the importance of handwashing in the fight against cholera and other potentially deadly infections.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on Global Handwashing Day, a two-week campaign undertaken by UNICEF and its partners to highlight the importance of handwashing in the fight against cholera.  Watch in RealPlayer

 

As part of Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF and its partners have undertaken a two-week campaign that will extend to 1,500 schools, 10 hospitals and more than 160 county health centers.

At a school in Port-au-Prince rebuilt by UNICEF, Representative Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans delivered the message to the children.

"We have two themes this year: one for the adults, and one for the children," she said. "For the adults, wash hands with clean water and soap, block cholera. And for the children: Good morning, water! Good morning, soap! Goodbye, microbes!"

Challenges ahead

Gruloos-Ackermans acknowledged the many challenges facing schools across the country, but singled out this school in particular as a model for the rest of the nation.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/2011/Haiti/Andres Martinez Casares
As part of Global Handwashing Day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti , Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Haiti Representative, delivers a clear message in the fight against cholera: "Good morning, water! Good morning, soap! Goodbye, microbes!"

"There are a lot of schools in Haiti with a lot of children without toilets, without water," she said. "This is a catastrophe. We're working to improve this. But in your school, there's water, there are toilets – for the boys, for the girls. And when you come to school, you wash your hands and that's why among you there is no cholera, and there will be no cholera!"

A group of children then took center stage and sang to the rest of the students about why it’s important to wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom. They sang a song with the words from the day's theme: "Good morning, water! Good morning, soap! Goodbye, microbes!" – much to the delight of the children in attendance, who clapped and danced their approval.

A simple exercise

Behind the fun and games lie grim statistics. More than a million children under five die each year as a result of diarrhoea. It is the second most-common cause of child deaths worldwide. The cheapest and most-effective means of preventing these deaths is through handwashing, said Joseph Erold, who is the Haitian government's director of school health.

The Haitian government's director of School Health, Joseph Erold, also spoke.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/2011/Haiti/Andres Martinez Casares
Children wash their hands as part of Global Handwashing Day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

"Hand washing is a simple exercise," he said. "But at the same time, it can be complicated. Complicated when a school has no soap; complicated when a school has no clean water. Fortunately, with UNICEF and other partners, they are providing us with water and soap. With their help, hand washing becomes an easier exercise."

UNICEF provides support

This year, UNICEF is being joined by nearly 200 non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations in its efforts, which include incorporating handwashing lessons in between breaks at community sporting events.

All told, UNICEF is distributing more than 300,000 bars of soap to schools and health centers, along with a simple message: handwashing with soap saves lives.


 

 

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