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Clean hands save lives! UNICEF joins all Nigeria and the world to celebrate Global Handwashing Day October 15

Abuja, 15 October 2009 - UNICEF is joining all Nigeria to mark Global Handwashing Day, a day when all the countries of the world unite to call attention to the life-saving importance of hand washing with soap or ash and water.

The simple act of washing hands with soap or ash and water—particularly at critical moments, including after using the toilet and before handling food—can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea among children under five by almost half and respiratory infections by nearly a quarter. In Nigeria, it is estimated that diarrhoea is responsible for the death of nearly 200,000 children under five years old every year; respiratory infections kill another 240,000 young children every year.

“In Nigeria, clean hands could save the lives of thousands of babies and young children every year and spare countless others from illness,” said Dr. Suomi Sakai, Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria.“Frequent handwashing is a highly effective and yet very low-cost way of protecting the health of Nigeria’s children—and it is the foremost way of preventing infections among adults too.”

This year’s event, which builds on the success of the inaugural Global Handwashing Day in 2008,
is being flagged off by the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, as part of the government’s efforts to reduce life-threatening diseases among children and prevent the transmission of infections like influenza H1N1 among the general population.

In Nigeria, UNICEF is working with the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Task Group on Sanitation and other partners to mark Global Handwashing Day, and is supporting handwashing campaigns in schools and other fora to foster awareness of the critical importance of hand washing to health.

As part of its ongoing work to accelerate the survival and development of children in Nigeria, UNICEF promotes handwashing and other good hygiene practices as it provides water and sanitation facilities to schools and communities around the country.

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