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Clean hands save lives:15 October is the Global Handwashing Day

Ulaanbaatar, 15 October – Today is the Global Handwashing Day. 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. Washing hands with soap and water especially at the critical times -- after using the toilet and before handling food -- helps reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by more than 40 per cent, yet the behaviour is insufficiently practiced. Today marks the third annual Global Handwashing Day, shining a spotlight on the importance of handwashing with soap and water as one of the most effective and affordable health interventions, which can be considered an accessible “do-it-yourself” vaccine. Research in several developing countries illustrates that lack of soap is usually not the barrier – with the vast majority of even poor households having soap at home – rather, the problem is that soap is rarely used for handwashing. Observed rates of handwashing with soap at critical moments range from zero to 34 per cent. Global Handwashing Day aims to transform handwashing from an abstract good idea to an automatic behavior performed in homes, schools, and communities worldwide.Over 80 countries and at least 200 million children, parents, teachers, celebrities and citizens are celebrating the annual Global Handwashing Day. In 2009, on 15 October, 15,115 people washed hands at an event at Nehru Stadium, Chennai, India, and achieved the Guinness World Record for ‘most people washing hands at one location’. In Mongolia, educational and information efforts targeting school and kindergarten children and their parents were embarked on in several schools and kindergartens in Ulaanbaatar on 15 October by the government and international agencies including UNICEF and the NGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF). Children from kindergartens in peri-urban areas enjoyed taking part in drama and performances to demonstrate the importance of handwashing and singing a new Handwashing Song that was launched on the occasion of the Global Handwashing day. Children acting as agents of change take the good practices of hygiene learnt at school back into their homes and communities. The active participation and involvement of children is aimed at ensuring sustained behavioral change that will in time help transform hygiene practices in Mongolia.

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