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News note

Thousands of Iraqi students conclude Global Handwashing Day celebrations; Handwashing with soap could save thousands of children’s lives in Iraq

BAGHDAD, IRAQ, 20 October 2010 - Celebrating Global Handwashing Day on October 15th, over thirty thousand school children across Iraq today concluded activities over the past four days promoting the importance of handwashing.  Under the slogan “Clean hands save lives”, students in 26 schools were shown how to wash their hands correctly and how stomach aches can be avoided if hands are washed.

 “The aim of this celebration is to focus people’s attention about methods of prevention that do not cost much but can be very effective in keeping disease away." said Saeeb Jasim, the Director General of the Baghdad Department of Health. "We spend thousands of dollars dealing with diseases while something as simple as washing your hands can prevent disease and keep children healthy” said Saeeb Jasim, the Director General of the Baghdad Department of Health.

The two largest killers of under-five children in Iraq are acute respiratory infections, which causes around 33 per cent of all under-five child deaths and diarrhea which causes 26 per cent of all under-five child deaths.   The simple act of handwashing with soap, particularly at critical moments such as after using the toilet and before eating food, can reduce diarrhea by almost 40 per cent and respiratory infections by 23 per cent amongst children under the age of five.  Handwashing with soap, as a result, has a major impact in supporting Iraq attain its Millennium Development Goal child mortality (MDG 4) and combating disease (MDG 6) targets.

With more than 1,000 teachers trained to promote hygiene education in schools and after piloting the celebrations in schools the previous year, more school children in Iraq than ever before are acting as agents of change and taking the good practices of hygiene learned at school back into their homes and communities. Dr. Bushra Jameel, from the Baghdad General Health Department, notes “schools are the right venue to celebrate this day because a word from a teacher can change children’s behaviours which will save lives.  Teachers are now leading the effort to spread the message that washing hands with soap is easy, cheap and very effective.” 

Appealing to all Iraqi teachers, parents, and boys and girls UNICEF’s Representative to Iraq, Sikander Khan, stated “We call on Iraqi teachers to educate your students on the life-saving benefits of handwashing and ask all girls and boys across Iraq to wash your hands.  If more of us properly wash our hands we will see healthier and happier children throughout the country.” 
Global Handwashing Day was initiated in 2008 by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, and is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe. More than 200 million schoolchildren, parents, teachers, celebrities and government officials in more than 80 countries around the world lathered up for this year’s global handwashing day celebrations.

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: www.unicef.org
For further information please contact:
Jaya Murthy, UNICEF Iraq,
Tel + 962 79 692 6190,

Salam Abdulmunem, UNICEF Iraq,
Tel + 9647809126782,




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