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Global Hand-washing Day inspires children of Myanmar to regular hand-washing

© UNICEF Myanmar/2010/Myo Thame
Primary school children in Ayeyarwaddy Delta wash hand together on Global Hand Washing Day 2011.

by Ye Lwin Oo

“Unless we wash our hands before eating, bacteria touching our hands may get into our bodies while we eat. This can make us sick of diarrhoea and many other diseases. It is not good for us as we won’t be able to play or go to school,” said Yu Nandar Myint, a 10 year old fifth graders in the Nyaung Pin Tha village primary school in Pantanaw Township.

Yu Nandar Myint is one of the 1400 children who joined the Global Hand-washing Day event from 16 schools organized by UNICEF in the Pantanaw Township on October 15. This is the first time she got to practice hand washing in such an event together with her friends, parent and teachers. She, along with other primary school children, has learned the importance and the practice of hand-washing from life skills classes. But this was like a big fun event, Yu Nandar Myint, said she enjoyed the day.

She joined her friends to sing a hand-washing song:

"Before touching food,
We must wash our hands with soap and water
Let’s wash our hands well
So no bacteria can get into our bodies
Let’s enjoy ourselves! Enjoy ourselves!
Let’s go and wash hands when we are asked to come for lunch."

Globally diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections cause 3.5 million under five child deaths every year. Washing hands with soap and water especially after using toilet and before eating helps reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by 40 percent.

“Washing your hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet can considerably reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases. It can also reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections and influenza,” said Mr. Dara Johnston, Chief of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Section.

Since 2008, October 15 has been marked as Global Hand-washing Day all over the world including in Myanmar to raise awareness of the benefits of regular hand-washing practices. “I have learned from my school lessons that we need to wash hands. But to tell you the truth, I seldom remember to practice this before touching food and after using the toilet. The Global Hand-washing Day event today showed how we must do it and how important it is. Being here today makes me want to practice hand-washing regularly.”

Partner agencies for the third annual Global Hand-washing Day in Myanmar organized events across the country in line with the global theme for 2010 ‘More than just a Day” which aims to make the simple, life-saving practice of washing hands a regular habit. Thet Wai Linn, a grade five student from Setnaywar village primary school said “I have leanrned about hand-washing habits through UNICEF’s Life Skill course. Hand washing is one of the 4Cleans – Clean Food, Clean Water, Clean hand and Clean Toilet.”

The official ceremony and songs led to practical demonstration of thoroughly washing hands with soap and water before children proceeded for having lunch together in a festivity mood. The students, teachers and parents from all primary schools participated in the activities of the day that also included health talks.

“Hand washing as an important habit is a key topic in UNICEF’s Life Skills course. Today children had the practical training in washing hands with soap before eating, after using the toilet,” said Daw Htay Htay Kywe, school teacher of Basic Primary School from Setnaywar village, “Hopefully this will imbue in our students the need to move from learning to doing.”

In the past, open defecation was common in this region due to lack of toilet facilities. Local schools did not have proper fly-proof latrine and water supply either. But things have started changing since UNICEF supported WASH in Child Friendly School Project and Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Project have started working in the area.

“We are glad that UNICEF supported Child Friendly Schools help promote our children’s hygiene and health habits by providing standard water supply and toilet facilities in school,” said Daw Tin Tin Win, assistant teacher from Setnaywar village Primary School.

In total 14,000 students from 65 schools actively participated in Global Hand-washing Day events organized by UNICEF, government, other local and international NGOs in Myanmar.



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