Policy advocacy and partnerships for children's rights

In India, Formula 1 star and UNICEF Ambassador Fernando Alonso says hand-washing is a simple solution to saving millions of children's lives

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© UNICEF India/2012/Vishwanathan
Formula 1 driver and UNICEF Ambassador Fernando Alonso visits with the children of a school in Tugarpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. Mr. Alonso is observing water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in the school and speaking about the importance of hand-washing.

NEW DELHI, India, 5 November 2012 – Formula 1 driver and UNICEF Ambassador Fernando Alonso visited the village of Tugarpur, Uttar Pradesh, to promote hand-washing with soap.

“This very simple act can save hundreds of thousands of children who needlessly die every year,” he said.

Halting the spread of disease

Mr. Alonso’s visit coincided with a Formula 1 race held in New Delhi. During the visit, he engaged in a school-based activity of hand-washing with children on the occasion of the month-long Global Hand Washing Day campaign promoted by UNICEF and partners. The two-time world champion interacted with students and teachers to understand the situation of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in the school.

Washing hands with soap at critical times – after using toilets, and before eating and preparing food – can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea in children under 5 years old by more than 40 per cent.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2012/Vishwanathan
Mr. Alonso engages in a school-based activity of hand-washing with children as part of his visit. He talks about how hand-washing is important to both preventing disease and continuing school enrolment.

“Hygiene is critical to good health, as it reduces the transmission of disease and the number of deaths,” Mr. Alonso said. “Halting the spread of diarrhoeal disease is not complicated or costly. You do not need a winning formula to save the lives of millions of young children around the world. The solution already exists: soap and water. Let’s make ‘wet, rub, rinse’ a routine for everyone. Schools are the best place to start spreading the message.”

Ensuring students stay enrolled

After acknowledging efforts made by the Government of India towards institutionalizing hand-washing with soap in schools, Mr. Alonso highlighted the importance of sanitation facilities as a critical factor for ensuring continuing enrolment and preventing dropouts.

“Improved sanitation facilities, with hygiene practices built into the school routine, contribute to a healthy environment for all the community, reducing dropout rates and enhancing educational performance among children. This is especially critical for girls,” he said.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2012/Vishwanathan
"Let’s make ‘wet, rub, rinse’ a routine for everyone," says two-time Formula 1 world champion Mr. Alonso.

Spreading the message to the community

Chief of WASH in UNICEF India Sue Coates accompanied the UNICEF Ambassador throughout the visit. “Working with their teachers and peers, [the children] can create an active learning environment in school and also carry messages back home to motivate their families to hand-wash with soap at critical times,” Ms. Coates said. “We are currently supporting the Government of India to institutionalize hand-washing with soap in schools before the midday meal so that over 110 million children are reached every day.”

UNICEF, with the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, is also rolling out a social media campaign, including hashtag #iwashmyhands. The partnership has also developed a World Wash Up game that invites players to zap germs.

In addition, UNICEF has launched an online platform with videos, games, feature stories, photo essays and a photo contest.

This year, the message on hand-washing with soap is being carried by millions of school children in over 100 countries during a month of activities. In India, children in 1.3 million primary and upper primary schools are participating in the celebrations to mark Global Hand Washing Day.


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