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Ethiopian children celebrate Global Handwashing Day with running star Shaleka Haile Gebrselassie

© UNICEF video
Children from Medhanialem Primary School participate in Global Handwashing Day activities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 30 October 2009 – Ethiopian schoolchildren recently celebrated Global Handwashing Day, with roughly 24,000 participating schools in Ethiopia.

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated in more than 80 countries spanning five continents. It promotes handwashing with soap as an effective way to prevent illness and disease transmission.

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Students are the primary focus of the campaign because they can spread the message of proper handwashing to others in their schools, homes and communities.

“A heavy focus is placed on hygiene and sanitation. By having every health extension worker practice and preach handwashing as an everyday ritual, Ethiopia will surely be a healthier nation,” said Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Dadi Jimma.

Educating communities

Medhanialem Primary School in Addis Ababa was chosen to be the national focal point for the celebration, hosting speakers and performances for the big kick-off event.

In attendance was UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Ted Chaiban, who stressed the importance of educating communities about the advantages of handwashing.

“While promoting a general culture of handwashing, it is important that people are made aware of the four critical times for handwashing with soap: before eating, before preparing food, after using the toilet, and after cleaning children’s bottoms,” he said.

Guest of honour

The guest of honour was the world renowned long distance track and road running star Shaleka Haile Gebrselassie, who was met with a standing ovation.

© UNICEF video
World-renowned long distance track and road running star Shaleka Haile Gebrselassie demonstrates the importance of handwashing with soap.

“I have taken my time to come here today because I want people to hear and understand the message that just practicing the simple act of handwashing with soap can save our people from unnecessary sickness and death from diarrhoeal disease,” he said. 

Special performances

School children also took the stage to perform handwashing-themed songs, dances, dramas and poems. 

A children’s book entitled ‘Yeabush Ejoch Nen’ was also launched by the Ministry of Education. The book reinforces the importance of handwashing with soap and was commissioned by UNICEF as a special contribution to the campaign. It was written by children’s author Samrawit Araya.

It is hoped that such efforts will increase the potentially lifesaving practice of handwashing with soap in Ethiopia and across the world.




UNICEF correspondent Natacha Ikoli reports on long distance track and road running star Shaleka Haile Gebrselassie’s meeting with children in Ethiopia for the celebration of Global Handwashing Day.
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