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Global Handwashing Day celebrated by thousands of children across Iraq

Clean Hands Save Lives


Baghdad, 16 October 2011 – UNICEF joins thousands of children across Iraq this week in celebrating yesterday’s 4th annual Global Handwashing Day emphasizing the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective, simple, and affordable way to prevent disease.  In events from October 15-24, teachers, parents and government officials will be encouraging all Iraqis to lather up to prevent life-threatening diseases such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections.


This year, over 18,000 Iraqi children in 36 schools will be celebrating Handwashing Day by teaching each other about the importance of hand washing with soap though plays, songs, and drawing competitions. UNICEF is distributing soap and hygiene kits in participating schools and, in partnership with Zain Iraq, is launching a weeklong SMS campaign to remind millions of people of the importance of handwashing.


These activities are aimed at spreading a life-saving message: clean hands save lives. In Iraq, respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases are the two main causes of death in children under the age of 5. Handwashing with soap prevents disease in a more straightforward and cost-effective way than any single vaccine.


The simple act of washing hands with soap at critical moments – such as after using the toilet or before handling food – is an easy and affordable intervention that can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea among children under five by almost 50 per cent, and cut respiratory infections by as much as 25 per cent. 


“Soap is not in short supply” said Therese Dooley, UNICEF’s Senior Adviser for Hygiene and Sanitation. “The vast majority of poor households have soap in the home. The problem is that soap is used for laundry or bathing, but rarely for handwashing.” Dooley added that UNICEF would like to ensure handwashing with soap becomes a social norm in all countries.


Many governments around the world have now adopted Global Handwashing Day as a national celebration. In Iraq, the Ministries of Health and Education have been marking Handwashing day for the past three years, with both ministries again joining UNICEF to celebrate this day this year.


About Global Handwashing Day:

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated on October 15. The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap initiated Global Handwashing Day in 2008, and it is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe. Visit



UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports 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 funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:


About UNICEF Iraq

UNICEF has been on the ground in Iraq since 1983 working to ensure Iraqi children survive and realize their full potential. UNICEF is supporting the Government of Iraq to develop child friendly policies, build the capacity of institutions that deliver essential services to children, and convene all duty bearers to realize the full rights of Iraqi children. Via a network of staff and partners, UNICEF’s programmes continue to improve basic health services, safeguard a quality education, rebuild water and sanitation systems, protect children from abuse, violence, and exploitation, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in crisis situations.


For further information, please contact:

Jaya Murthy, UNICEF Iraq,, mobile: +962796926190

Salam Abdulmunem, UNICEF Iraq,, mobile: +964 780 912 6782




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