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Handwashing with soap: a simple practice that saves lives

© UNICEF Pacific/2014/Alcock
Little children practicing handwashing on Tanna Island in Vanuatu

SUVA, 15 October 2014 – Today the world celebrates Global Handwashing Day! 

This day reminds everyone about the importance of washing our hands with soap to prevent diseases from spreading.   

“People under-estimate the importance of handwashing. Handwashing with soap prevents infections and saves lives,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr, Karen Allen.  She added, “The annual Global Handwashing Day celebrations emphasise that hands need to be washed with soap before eating, after using the toilet, and before close contact in the care of infants. Water is not enough to kill diseases: soap is required, of almost any kind. It does not have to be expensive soap.”

“UNICEF focuses on children and their caregivers on this day because children suffer from diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases and deaths. At the same time, children are powerful agents for changing behaviour in their schools and homes and for educating their own children when they grow up,” she said.

Figures released recently by UNICEF and the World Health Organization say in 2013 more than 340,000 children under five – almost 1,000 a day – died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. 

In Fiji, Global Handwashing Day is being celebrated together with the Special Schools sports day at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka. Primary Schools around the country will also participate in handwashing activities at their respective schools. 

In Solomon Islands, 12 schools including two high schools and an early childhood center have handwashing activities including colouring and drawing competitions, displays, storytelling and games scheduled for the day.

In Vanuatu, UNICEF in partnership with Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Net Ball Vanuatu and Colgate –Palmolive are organizing hand washing activities in selected schools to promote hand washing practices amongst school children, and combining this with hygiene promotion for de-worming. Leading up to the day, there will be radio talk back shows, radio interviews and radio/TV news covering the events.

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

About UNICEF: 

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For further information, including interviews, please contact:

Donna Hoerder, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: 679 3236 100 or



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