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UNICEF calls on public and private sectors to support first Global Handwashing Day

© UNICEF Philippines
UNICEF Philippines staff members with schoolchildren at the first Global Handwashing Day celebration in the country.

UNICEF (United Nations Childrens Fund) and its partners will mount worldwide the first-ever Global Handwashing Day on October 15, 2008 to promote the life-saving habit of handwashing with soap.

The Philippines will join 20 other countries across five continents for this one-day event which aims to motivate and mobilize millions around the world to start washing their hands with soap regularly through an awareness-raising and educational campaign.

Here in the Philippines, UNICEF has partnered with Department of Health, Department of Education and Safeguard soap to promote Global Handwashing Day and to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap.

“UNICEF calls on parents, teachers, celebrities, government, NGOs, and the general public to urge children around the world to begin a lifetime habit of handwashing with soap on the first-ever Global Handwashing Day,” UNICEF Representative Vanessa Tobin said.

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea kills almost 2 million children globally every year, making it the second leading killer of children worldwide. A simple hygiene habit – washing hands with any soap – could cut this figure in half. 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 diarrhea, but also pneumonia and intestinal worms. Research has suggested that handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 45 percent.

“Although people around the world wash their hands with water, far fewer wash their hands with soap at critical moments – for example, after using the toilet, after cleaning a child, and before handling food. They don’t realize that handwashing is actually a life-saving habit that can prevent the death of millions of children,” explained Tobin. 

Tobin revealed that the observed rates of handwashing with soap at critical moments range from zero to only 34 percent so families all over the world, particularly in developing countries. The results of this for children includes missed school days, reduced resistance to infections, impaired growth, malnutrition, poverty and even lost lives. This is why UNICEF and its partners are stepping up efforts to promote better hygiene and sanitation, including handwashing with soap.

“Our priority is to help Filipino families develop life-saving hygiene habits. Safeguard has had a long history in promoting health and hygiene – we have our long-standing partnership with the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists (PAMET) and most recently, the Protect 5 Handwashing Program where we teach proper handwashing with soap to thousands of children in schools all over the country,” said Maimai Punzalan, Country Marketing Manager of Procter and Gamble Philippines, the maker of Safeguard.

“This partnership for Global Handwashing will help us take handwashing education to the next level, reaching not only children but their parents who can help reinforce the habit.”

UNICEF is also partnering with Safeguard to improve water and sanitation facilities and conduct hygiene education in impoverished areas in Sultan Kudarat for the next two years.

UNICEF and its partners calls on everyone to support Global Handwashing Day by starting the lifetime practice of proper handwashing with soap – hand in hand, we can help save lives! (end)


About Global Handwashing Day: Global Handwashing Day is a global partnership between development organizations (World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program, UNICEF, USAID, Centres for Disease Control) and private partners to promote handwashing with soap. In the Philippines the partners include UNICEF, Department of Health, Department of Education, Procter and Gamble (Safeguard soap), USAID, World Bank and NGOs.  Global Handwashing Day will be marked in over 20 countries: Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Madagascar, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Mali, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, China, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, Philippines, US, UK. 





GHD Key facts

• Diarrhea is the 4th leading cause of deaths among children less than 5 years and the 3rd leading cause of child illness. It is estimated to cause 12% or almost 10,000 deaths a year (Making Child Survival Work in the Philippines, DOH/WHO/UNICEF, 2007).

• Between 10 and 20%, or about 1.5 million cases of children under five have diarrhea at any one time. Prevalence of diarrhea is recorded highest at 20% in the Cordillera region, many cases in densed regions like NCR, followed by CALABARZON, Central Luzon and Central Visayas. (Making Child Survival Work in the Philippines, DOH/WHO/UNICEF, 2007. Figures based on National Demographic and Health Survey measuring cases over two weeks prior to the survey)

• Pneumonia is the 3rd leading cause of deaths among children under five, estimated at more than 10,000 children (Making Child Survival Work in the Philipines, DOH/WHO/UNICEF 2007).

• About 10% of children below 5 years had symptoms of Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) – cough accompanied by short, rapid breathing in the 2 weeks preceding the survey. This translates to about 1 million new episodes or cases in children (NDHS, 2003).

• 70% of preschool children are host to at least one type of intestinal helminthes infection and 7 out of 10 children (aged 3-12) suffer from intestinal worms (STH Survey, 2004).


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