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“Clean hands save lives”

Global Handwashing Day - 15 October
Global Handwashing Day 2011 is celebrated by millions of people worldwide

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 October 2011 – UNICEF joins hundreds of millions of people today in celebrating the 4th annual Global Handwashing Day, emphasising the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective, simple, and affordable way to prevent disease.

Teachers, parents, celebrities and government officials are motivating millions to lather up to prevent life-threatening diseases such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections - in a number of exciting events across the globe from Afghanistan to Peru to India.

The events aimed at spreading a life-saving message: clean hands save lives, promise to surpass celebrations in 2010, which saw 200 million people and 700,000 schools in over 70 countries honouring the day.

Affordable intervention

UNICEF estimates that diarrhoea kills 1.1 million children every year, and pneumonia-related illnesses take another 1.2 million child lives. 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, even in developing countries,” said UNICEF’s Senior Adviser for Hygiene and Sanitation Therese Dooley in New York. “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.” Ms. Dooley added that UNICEF would like to ensure handwashing with soap becomes a social norm in all countries.

National celebration

Governments around the world have now adopted Global Handwashing Day as a national celebration, wanting the event to be more than just a day, and to ensure that handwashing with soap is promoted throughout the year.

In 2010, for example, all schools –18 million children– across Bangladesh, participated in mass handwashing demonstrations on October 15. The events were used as a platform to launch the Bangladesh government’s National Hygiene Campaign which aims to change the way the country uses soap, and in particular to promote its use in handwashing.

“We are happy that this year other countries are following Bangladesh’s example,” said Ms. Dooley. “While we adults are always trying to discourage bad habits in children, the good habit of handwashing with soap is one we want every child to develop.”


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

For more information, please contact:

Indra Kumari Nadchatram
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel +6012 292 6872,





Clean hands save lives

Global Handwashing Day

          15 October


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