In the fight against cholera, washing hands takes centre stage in Guinea Bissau
Bissau, 15 October 2008 - UNICEF Guinea Bissau organized the First Global Hand-Washing Day celebration in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, the St. Francis of Assisi school in the capital Bissau, the NGO CREPA and Antula neighborhood community.
The official ceremony took place in the school S. Francis of Assisi, and was chaired by the Minister of Health and attended by representatives of the Government, United Nations, Armed Forces and Supreme Court, as well as by the Mayor of Bissau, religious and traditional leaders, artists, hundreds of students and community representatives. Several representatives of the national and international media also attended the event.
In her speech, Silvia Luciani, the UNICEF Representative, stressed the relevance of hand-washing for prevention of diarrhoeal diseases, particularly as the country is currently in the middle of a cholera epidemic. “Washing hands with soap or ash is especially important before eating, before handling foods and after using the toilet”, she said. “Washing hands at these critical moments can reduce by 50% child morbidity, and cut down substantially the current cholera cases.”
The Minister of Health, Dr. Camilo Pereira, reinforced this message, stressing that hand washing, if practiced by children and adults alike, would have a very big impact in Guinea Bissau, where diarrhoeal diseases are the second cause of under five mortality. He also stressed the importance of the personal engagement of teachers in promoting adoption of hygienic practices by children, and within families and communities.
The celebration of the first Global Hand Washing Day was also the occasion to launch the School Cholera Campaign Prevention in the regions of Biombo and Bissau, which are the regions most affected by the current cholera epidemic. This campaign has been jointly organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and aims to teach children diarrhoeal diseases preventive practices. As the children are great communicators, they will also contribute to bring back to their families and communities the healthy practices they have learned in school.
In the course of the ceremony, the school children performed theatre plays and dances and sang songs about hygiene practices for the prevention of cholera, diarrheal and respiratory diseases, and demonstrated hand washing with soap. A drawing competition among the children was also organized on the theme ‘hygiene and hand washing’.
Finally, two artists of the Guinea Bissau musical scene, Jovem Binham and Patchi de Rima, guided the children in singing a song on hand washing that was especially composed for this particular celebration.
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