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Global Handwashing Day: 2010 ‘More than just a day’ campaign

Millions of Bangladeshi children take the pledge to wash their hands with soap

Dhaka, 30th September 2010 : Millions of school children in Bangladesh will participate in a pledge campaign as part of Global Handwashing Day starting from 1st October 2010.The pledge campaign will encourage children to wash their hands with soap after using the toilet, before eating and feeding young children, and after cleaning a child’s bottom after defecation. By taking the pledge, children are making a promise to themselves and their communities to always practice good hygiene, and help reduce the occurrence of diarrheal diseases.

Over 18 million children right across the country will take part in this year’s Global Hand-washing Day activities, which will include also discussions and demonstrations of hand-washing with soap. A total of 75,000 primary and secondary schools along with 8000 madrasas (religious schools) will participate in the day’s events.

Global Handwashing Day celebrated on the 15th of October each year and was launched in 2008 as a public-private partnership with Unilever, UNICEF along with the Government as key players. The partnership is now endorsed by Save the Children, Plan Bangladesh, Muslim Aid, CARE Bangladesh, Safe, Oxfam, Water Aid Bangladesh NGO forum and Water Sanitation for Urban Poor.

This year 15 October falls on a Friday which is a weekend and during the a-five-day Puja holiday. Since all schools observe this, the initiative will take place on the 20th of October, after school resumes.

“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.

According to a study conducted by UNICEF and WHO, Bangladesh is among the 10 countries in the world that report the largest number of child deaths due to diarrhea. Approximately 50,800 children under the age of five years die every year in Bangladesh from diarrheal diseases, and the death toll worldwide is a shocking 3.5 million.

Research shows that washing hands with soap is a highly cost-effective health practice that can reduce the incidence of diarrheal disease by over 40 per cent yet, despite its life-saving potential, handwashing with soap is seldom practiced. The children who participate in the Global Handwashing Day pledge campaign will play the role of “change agent” in their respective families and communities.
“The campaign in Bangladesh recognizes that schoolchildren can be effective agents of change” said Hans D. Spruijt, UNICEF Chief of the Water and Environment Sanitation Section in Bangladesh. “When they learn safe hygiene practices at school, they take these back to their homes and communities. 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”.

For more information please contact:
Diarrhoea : Why children are still dying and what can be done, UNICEF/WHO, 2009.

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