UNICEF Handwashing campaign improves children's lives at home and at school
By Jelena Skopelja
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 20 October 2011 – Seven-year-old Sarobidy Andrianomenjahary, washes his hands enthusiastically in front of 450 of his fellow students at Ambatolampy public primary school in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. This is an important day for Sarobidy, who has learned the importance of washing his hands before and after eating and visiting the toilet.
“Washing my hands makes me feel healthy and clean, and I will teach my little sister at home how to wash her hands, too. This will help us stay strong,” says Sarobidy.
Safe water and sanitation in schools such as Ambatolampy is very limited. Less than a third of primary schools in Madagascar have latrines, and children often do not receive sufficient knowledge and guidance at home to encourage them to wash their hands. As a result, they suffer from illnesses linked to inadequate water and sanitation facilities. Diarrhoea, often caused by poor hygiene, remains one of the main causes of death among children under five. This can be reduced significantly if handwashing with soap becomes an ingrained practice both at schools and at home.
UNICEF’s efforts in promoting hand washing with soap in schools such as Ambatolampy is part of a larger water, sanitation and hygiene program that shows how important it is to involve children themselves as active participants. Giving children real responsibilities in hand washing with soap and teaching their peers creates a sense of ownership and will make the most lasting public health impact.
In an effort to reach the most vulnerable children at pre-primary and primary schools, UNICEF partner Colis Express has distributed soap free of charge to Ambatolampy and across 92 other schools in Antananarivo. This is part of a sensitization campaign to involve children as their own agents of positive behavior change. Colis Express is one of UNICEF Madagascar’s private partners in the effort to save and improve children’s lives.
“Celebrating the Global Handwashing Day is an opportunity for us to put in practice simple habits that can have positive outcomes for children and for their families at home,” said Olga Raveloarisoa, Director of Ambatolampy primary school.
The impact of UNICEF’s sensitization campaign in Ambatolampy and in public primary schools across Madagascar’s capital is key to promoting behavior change through motivation, information and education. Children are taught the importance of hygiene and encouraged to demonstrate good hygiene to their families and communities. Approximately 63,405 public primary school children will be reached through this important initiative.