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Around 18 million children to wash hands with soap across Bangladesh

Global Hand-washing Day: 'Clean hands save lives' campaign

Dhaka, 14 October 2009. An estimated 18 million children will take part in discussions and demonstrations of hand-washing with soap across the country as part of the Global Hand-washing Day observation on 15 October2009. In 2008 16 million children from 73,000 primary and secondary schools in Bangladesh washed their hands with soap and pledged to promote hand-washing with soap after defecation and before eating.

Over 80 countries will celebrate the second annual Global Hand-washing Day this year. In Bangladesh, a total of 75,000 primary and secondary schools along with 8000 madrasas (religious schools) will participate in this event.

“With the world community, Bangladesh is taking up the challenge to involve even more children in this campaign than last year. This time, we are focusing more on reaching families and communities at the  grassroots level. We are aiming to engage not only the children but also their parents and teachers”, said Md Nuruzaman, Chief Engineer, Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) of Local Government Division.

Each year, diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections kill more than 3.5 million children under the age of five in the world. About 85 per cent of these deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. 

According to a global report on diarrhoea released today by UNICEF and WHO , Bangladesh is among the 10 countries in the world that report the largest number of child deaths due to diarrhoea. In Bangladesh, 50,800 children under five years of age die of diarrhoea every year.

Research shows that washing hands with soap is a highly cost-effective health practice that can reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by over 40 per cent and respiratory infections by nearly 25 per cent.  Furthermore, washing hands with soap is also  a critical action to prevent the spread of swine influenza (H1N1).
Yet, despite its life-saving potential, hand-washing with soap is seldom practiced and not always easy to promote.
“The campaign recognizes schoolchildren as effective agents of change”, said Dr. Iyorlumun Uhaa, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh. “When they learn safe hygiene practices at school, they take these back into their homes and communities. They are also the first  to be affected by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation.”

Investments in health, child survival, education, water supply, and sanitation are all jeopardized if there is a lack of emphasis on hand-washing with soap.

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 hand-washing.

The Global Hand-washing Day Campaign was initiated in 2008 by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Hand-washing with Soap where Unilever has been one of the key actors. “We believe this partnership will go a long way to promote hand washing habits in Bangladesh and help us achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children”, said Naushad Choudhury, Brands & Development Director of Unilever Bangladesh Limited. “We are committed to socially driven programmes, especially aimed at hygiene promotion. Changing behaviours remains a challenge and requires continuous awareness campaigns.”   

 The partnership is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe. In Bangladesh DPHE, UNICEF, WHO, Wateraid, BRAC, CARE, Save the Children, NGO Forum and other NGOs put their efforts together observe the day.

For more information please  contact:

  • Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Chief, Communication and Information; Tel: 9336701-10/Ext 209 E-mail:
  • Arifa S. Sharmin, UNICEF Communication Specialist; Tel: 9336701-10/Ext 442 Email:
  • Hosne Ara Loma, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, Product Group Manager. Tel : 9888452  Ext 372, E-mail :

Please visit:

Note to Editors:

Global Handwashing Day is an initiative of the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW), a coalition formed by the following organizations: Academy for Educational Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colgate-Palmolive, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Procter & Gamble, UNICEF, Unilever, USAID, The World Bank, The Water and Sanitation Program, and The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

To view the Global Handwashing Day website please visit








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