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Launch of Handwashing Day in earthquake-affected areas of Sichuan

© UNICEF China/Lei Jun

Beijing, 30 October 2008 – After a successful handwashing event in Beijing last week, UNICEF China headed to temporary shelter communities in Sichuan Province's Beichuan County on October 25 to continue Global Handwashing Day promotions.

Beichuan County, home to the Qiang minority people, was the epicentre of the devastating May 2008 earthquake that killed 70,000 people. The earthquake severely affected Beichuan's population of 170,000, leaving 15,645 people in the county dead. Natural disaster struck again in September when a flood swept the county. In the aftermath of such disasters, handwashing and hygiene take on all the more importance.

"In emergencies like the earthquake, the water supply may become contaminated. If not adequately addressed, this could lead to major epidemic outbreaks," Ms. Lei Jun, UNICEF China Water, Environment, and Sanitation officer warned. "Promoting handwashing will help prevent communicable disease in temporary settlement camps, especially for the young children."

The handwashing event drew over 3,000 people. The event featured musical performances, arts activities, and contests, all designed to promote knowledge about handwashing technique and actively engage the community, especially children. The event, sponsored by UNICEF, was organized by the National Patriotic Health Campaign Committee Office (NPHCCO), the Sichuan Provincial PHCCO, and the Beichuan County Government.

"In addition to promoting handwashing, the most cost-effective way to prevent disease transmission, this event, with its entertaining activities and hands-on participation, is also a kind of psychological therapy for the earthquake-affected residents of Beichuan," said Beichuan County Governor Mr. Jing Dazhong, who attended the event.

Over the last few months, UNICEF has distributed a total of 2,500 sets of hygiene kits to settlement camps in Beichuan. Each kit contains towels, soaps, combs, shampoos, toothbrushes and toothpaste, women's hygiene products, and other supplies. It is estimated that the hygiene kits can benefit about 3500 children and their families.

Efforts to promote hygiene take on special significance in 2008, the International Year of Sanitation. Over 70 countries have responded to the call for improved hygiene and sanitation by hosting events for Global Handwashing Day. UNICEF's hygiene campaigns in China, which include strong media participation, will continue over the coming years to promote knowledge and change hygiene attitudes and practices.

About UNICEF in China:

UNICEF first assisted China between 1947 and 1951, providing emergency services, food and nutrition, health and hygiene training during and after the Revolutionary War. In 1979 UNICEF officially commenced its cooperation with the Government of China to support child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. 

For further information, please contact:

Dale Rutstein, UNICEF China, +86 13910973801,



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