Media centre

Media home

Press Releases


Fact Sheets

Photo essays

Audio stories


Public service announcements


Nigerian Children join to encourage Handwashing with Soap on the first-ever Global Handwashing Day

Abuja, 14 October 2008 - From Mauritania to Chad, Niger to Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire to Congo and Nigeria to the Democratic Republic of Congo, playgrounds and classrooms, local communities and city centres will be buzzing on Global Handwashing Day (15 October 2008) with high profile awareness-raising and educational activity to accelerate handwashing behaviour change on a scale never seen before.

Diarrhoea kills almost 2 million children every year worldwide, and about 500,000 of these deaths occur in West and Central Africa, making it the third leading killer of children in the region. Here in Nigeria, over 150,000 deaths occur annually amongst children due to diarrhoea. A simple hygiene habit – washing hands with soap – could halve this figure.

Diarrhoea is both preventable and treatable, yet families in developing countries continue to pay the price of this disease in lost lives, missed school days, reduced resistance to infections, impaired growth, malnutrition and poverty.

The inaugural Global Handwashing Day puts this often overlooked hygiene challenge at the forefront of the international agenda while keeping children at the heart of each country’s national and local initiatives.

When coupled with educational initiatives, handwashing with soap is one of the world’s most cost-effective preventive health interventions and has been proven to reduce the risk of not only diarrhoea, but also some of its more severe manifestations, such as cholera and dysentery, by 48-59 percent.  Regular handwashing with soap has also recently been shown to reduce pneumonia infections by 25%.

On Global Handwashing Day, children, school teachers and parents will join celebrities, government officials, NGO ambassadors and members of the private sector to call for proper hygiene practices across the world and raise awareness that handwashing with soap is a powerful public health intervention.

In Nigeria, UNICEF, the Government of Nigeria through the Ministries of Education and other relevant Ministries and Water Aid are implementing an educational campaign on handwashing with soap to target more than 100,000 number of school children.

Specific activities for the commemoration of the Global Handwashing Day in Nigeria include National and State level quiz competitions on hygiene and sanitation among 222 focus schools in all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, promotion of handwashing campaigns in six schools in each of the 36 States plus the FCT and a three-day media consultation on effective promotion of the handwashing campaign. On 15 October, the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with the National Task Group on Sanitation will hold a special handwashing awareness programme aimed at getting over 100,000 persons to wash their hands. The programme will also feature the final of the school quiz competition on sanitation and hygiene.

Stepping up investment in handwashing will make a significant contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children the age of five by two-thirds by 2015 (MDG 4). In West and Central Africa, two children out of ten die before they reach their fifth birthday.

“Making handwashing with soap an entrenched habit for children and caregivers could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention” said Suomi Sakai, UNICEF Representative to Nigeria. “The power of public-private partnerships can deliver outstanding results for children”.


About the Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing
The coalition behind the Global Handwashing Day is an alliance of public and private partners who together form the Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (, an international initiative to promote handwashing with soap to reduce diarrhoea in developing countries and implement large-scale handwashing interventions by combining the expertise and resources of the soap industry with the facilities and resources of governments.

About Global Handwashing Day
Global Handwashing Day spotlights this important issue in the year that the UN General Assembly has designated the International Year of Sanitation (IYS) to promote improved hygiene practices and draw attention to the world’s enormous sanitation challenge. Handwashing plays an important part in the efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals relating to health improvements, education and the reduction of poverty and child mortality, as well as access to and effective use of water supply and sanitation services agreed to by UN member countries at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002.

For more information, please contact:

Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, Media & External Relations, UNICEF,, mobile 08035250288

MacArthur Hill, Communication Specialist, Media & External Relations, UNICEF,, mobile 08035350981

Bisi Agberemi, WASH Specialist, Water, Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion, UNICEF,, mobile 08035350985



 Email this article

unite for children