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Somalia, 14 October 2013: On Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF focuses on creating awareness about the link between hand washing and Polio prevention in Somalia

Mogadishu/Garowe/Hargeisa, 14 Oct 2013 - Washing hands regularly with soap and water is one of the simplest, most affordable and effective ways of preventing disease and saving lives.

This message is at the heart of the campaign spearheaded by UNICEF and partners to reach out to millions of Somalis, especially children, on Global Hand Washing Day on October 15.

“Global Hand Washing Day underscores the importance of hand washing regularly with soap and water as one of the most effective and affordable health interventions,” said Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Somalia Deputy Representative. “Getting children involved in hand washing promotion helps them develop positive behaviours that are essential in fighting disease and staying healthy,” she added.

The activities will particularly focus on creating awareness about the link between hand washing and Polio prevention.

The global theme for the hand washing day is “The power is in your hands”. In Somalia, the adapted theme is “The power to kick Polio out of Somalia is in your hands”.

Somalia reported its first case of Polio in May after five years of being Polio free. So far more than 170 cases have been recorded. The only guaranteed way to protect children against the Polio virus is through vaccination. However, the efficacy of the vaccine is affected by diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

Sanitation coverage in Somalia remains very low and only 29 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Cholera is endemic in the country and claims the lives of hundreds of children every year.

According to the Multi Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2011 results, in Somaliland about 41 per cent of households do not have any soap and in the poorest households this number rises to 66 per cent. The situation is the same in Puntland as well particularly in the rural areas.

Up to 560,000 children, including from internally displaced communities and some 179 schools, are participating in the UNICEF supported activities which include the distribution of soap, jerrycans and water purifiers.

UNICEF is supporting activities that aim to turn hand washing into a regular habit well beyond the celebrations, and enshrine this life-saving practice into the everyday routines of Somali communities - especially children who are the most vulnerable to disease.

There is evidence that up to half of all diarrhea cases and a quarter of acute respiratory infections among children under-five years can be prevented by washing hands with soap at critical times. This is particularly significant for Somalia where almost one in five children die before their fifth birthday due to illness including diarrhea and pneumonia.

UNICEF, in collaboration with the Somali authorities, community organizations and private partners, is taking that message to schools, community centers and hospitals, public spaces and households through radio and television across all regions to ensure this becomes a life-long behavior that children and their families adopt.

For more information, please contact
Bismarck Swangin, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Somalia



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