Ministry of Health and UNICEF launch Rwanda’s first National Handwashing Sub-Strategy

19 November 2019
Olive helps 4-year-old Shania wash her hands with soap and water at their home-based early childhood care centre.
Olive helps 4-year-old Shania wash her hands with soap and water at their home-based early childhood care centre.

RUSIZI, Rwanda – Today the Ministry of Health launches the National Sub-Strategy for Handwashing during a combined sanitation-hygiene celebration on World Toilet Day. This sub-strategy complements a larger national strategy on health promotion, and provides key actions for government, private sector, and development partners to promote handwashing with soap for all people at critical moments.

The world normally celebrates Global Handwashing Day on 15 October and World Toilet Day on 19 November. But this year, Rwanda is combining these two days into Sanitation and Hygiene Week. From 17-22 November, the Ministry of Health will lead Sanitation and Hygiene Week to create larger awareness and united action towards improved sanitation and hygiene in Rwanda.

Key activities to mark the Sanitation and Hygiene Week outreach events in schools will be conducted by Water for People, Water Aid and CRS Gikuriro among other partners. The school-based events will also include prize-giving ceremonies to the most active students and health clubs in the schools.

“Diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under five. This can undermine their physical and cognitive development as it exposes them to chronic malnutrition. This sub strategy is a necessary and concrete action towards promoting handwashing behaviours which can reduce preventable disease and help ensure every child grows up in a clean and healthy home,” said Dr. Diane Gashumba, Minister of Health.

In fact, the simple act of handwashing with clean water and soap at critical times – such as before eating and after using the toilet – can decrease diarrhoeal disease up to 40 per cent.

Basic sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices are also critical, not only for health and nutrition, but for quality education, economic development, equity and dignity, especially for women and girls.

“Investing in basic sanitation and hygiene facilities at home requires few resources but results in massive benefit. To promote this investment in communities and households, and to demonstrate the impact that good hygiene and basic sanitation facilities has for children, UNICEF is supporting the Government with a nationwide behaviour change communication campaign. This will ensure sustainable change and lasting benefits for children and their families,” said Nathalie Hamoudi, acting UNICEF Representative in Rwanda.

The launch of the National Handwashing Sub-Strategy precedes the National Handwashing Conference in January, convening leaders and partners to discuss the road map for strategy implementation through 2024.

Media Contacts

Rajat Madhok
Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships
Tel: +250 788 301 419
Malick Kayumba
Head of RHCC
Rwanda Health Communications Center
Tel: +250 788 350 035


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