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South Sudan, 15 October 2014: Handwashing with soap: Saving the lives of children in South Sudan and the world

15 October 2014, JUBA – As the world celebrates the seventh Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF said the fight against Ebola further underscores the role of handwashing in disease prevention.

“Handwashing with soap is one of the cheapest, fastest, and most effective ways to help prevent diarrhoeal and viral diseases,” said Ettie Higgins, UNICEF South Sudan Deputy Representative. “Soap or ash and water is an extra defence against disease that everyone, children included, can take to keep themselves healthy.”

UNICEF has been playing a key role in raising awareness about how handwashing can also help prevent the spread of Ebola and similar viruses in South Sudan’s Ebola preparedness campaign.

And while Ebola brings a new focus on the importance of handwashing globally, in South Sudan, UNICEF has been playing a leading role in promoting handwashing with soap or ash as a crucial practice in the fight against the on-going outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.

In the fight against cholera UNICEF has distributed 684 tonnes of soap for 228,045 people and 360,000 water purification sachets.

Since April 2014, more than 6000 cases of cholera and around 140 deaths have been reported across the country. In the current outbreak, an unusually high proportion of children have been affected, further underlining the importance of handwashing and good hygiene in the home. The number of cases dropped dramatically in Juba, thanks in part to the promotion of handwashing.

Apart from Ebola, global figures released recently by UNICEF and the World Health Organization say in 2013 more than 340,000 children under five – almost 1,000 a day – died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene.

Handwashing with soap or ash can halve diarrheal infections and reduce acute respiratory infections by a quarter.

In South Sudan more than one in ten children die before reaching their 5th birthday – most of them from diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia that can be drastically reduced by the simple practice of handwashing with soap or ash at critical times:

  • After defecating
  • After cleaning a baby’s bottom
  • Before preparing food or eating
  • Before feeding a child

Choose handwashing, choose health!

The annual Global Handwashing Day celebrations are occasions to emphasize the role of handwashing with soap in the prevention of common but potentially lethal diseases such as diarrhoea, and many countries around the world are holding activities to promote the practice.

For more information, please contact:

Claire McKeever, UNICEF South Sudan, Tel: 0955109325,



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