UNICEF celebrates Global Handwashing Day
Provides 250,000 children with soap; half million to be trained on good hygiene
Islamabad, October 14 2012 – UNICEF is celebrating Global Handwashing Day across the country tomorrow by providing 250,000 children with handwashing soap as well as lessons to nearly half a million children on the benefits of handwashing. Awareness and information activities on this day are designed to instill and reinforce in everyone's minds that the very simple act of handwashing with soap can save hundreds of thousands of children from sickness and death. UNICEF wants the message to spread beyond just Handwashing Day and the participants.
Handwashing information and practice activities will be particularly emhasised among children and their families in areas affected by flooding in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan.
In Pakistan, an average of eight children die every hour due to infections from diarrhea. As a cost-effective life-saving intervention, handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children under five by almost 50 percent, and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent. These illnesses – and future health problems – can be prevented if children wash their hands with soap, and if their caregivers do so, too.
UNICEF is sponsoring Global Handwashing Day events in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta. The events will bring together children, policy makers and civil society partners (including the Pakistan Institute for Environment-Development Action Research), to mark the fifth commemoration of the event. Children will present their innovative ideas and skills on promotion of handwashing through songs, drawing and skits. The proper method of handwashing will also be demonstrated at the event.
“Islam teaches us that cleanliness is half of godliness,” says Mr Mehmood Alam, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change. “We can build good hygiene practices and habits on the solid rock of our basic values.”
The importance of handwashing is even more crucial in the event of emergencies such as the floods which have ravaged Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan for the third year in a row. 250,000 flood-affected people are receiving potable water daily through the efforts of UNICEF and its partners, but many thousands remain susceptible to water-borne diseases in areas where water has still not receded.
“Handwashing with soap - not just water - is an effective, low cost investment in the future life of a child,” said Karen Allen, UNICEF Deputy Representative for Pakistan. “The return on this investment can be seen in the improved health and wellness of children across the country – especially those living in flood-affected and poor areas.”
This year Global Handwashing Day will also be celebrated virtually on Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag for Global Handwashing Day 2012 is #iwashmyhands. Twitter users are encouraged to Tweet this hashtag in the lead up to, and on, Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap.