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Making Clean Hands a Priority for More than Just a Day

global_handwashing_dayGlobal Handwashing Day Partners Lather Up with Millions Around the World

Handwashing with soap could save lives of millions

NEW YORK/GENEVA/HANOI, 15 October 2010 - For the third annual Global Handwashing Day, more than 200 million schoolchildren, parents, teachers, celebrities and government officials around the world will lather up, but at the end of the day, they aim to have more than just clean hands.

This year the theme of Global Handwashing Day – more than just a day – aims to make the simple, life-saving practice of washing hands a regular habit long after the sun sets on October 15.

Global Handwashing Day partners are promoting this behavioural change not only by organizing activities in more than 80 countries to raise awareness of the benefits of handwashing, but by ensuring that schools and communities have the support they need to make the practice routine.  Toward this end the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap is rolling out new tools to help developing countries transform handwashing from a distracted daily act to a positive habit.

Each year, diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections are responsible for the deaths of more than 3.5 million children under the age of five. Washing hands with soap and water especially at the critical times -- after using the toilet and before handling food -- helps reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by more than 40 per cent, yet this simple behaviour is not practiced regularly.
Global Handwashing Day shines a spotlight on the importance of handwashing with soap and water as one of the most effective and affordable health interventions.  Today that message is being brought to playgrounds, classrooms, community centers, public spaces and the air waves.

The 100 school survey is one of the new tools being launched as part of the third annual Global Handwashing Day.  The questionnaire can be used to take a snapshot of hygiene conditions in schools, and thus be used to better target where resources are needed.  Other tools being rolled out this year include a monitoring toolkit and the More than Just a Day brochure, which outlines what can be done to promote handwashing with soap all year round. These and other tools are available on the Global Handwashing Day website

In Viet Nam, hygiene knowledge and behavior is a major concern. According to the National Sanitation Baseline Survey conducted in 2006 by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, only 12 per cent of the rural population washed their hands with soap before eating and only 16 per cent did that after defecation. Most of the rural population (98 per cent) did not know that hand-washing with soap is essential to help prevent infectious diseases.

Although at school children are taught to wash their hand with soap after using toilet, the survey also found out that only 36 percent of the schools had hand-washing areas and only 5 per cent  had soap available for hand-washing.

A number of activities to support the Global Hand washing Day will be organized in many provinces in Viet Nam by the Government of Viet Nam with support from the international organizations and private sector. These include hand-washing competition in primary schools, Hygiene and Sanitation Festival in schools. Key messages to promote hand washing with soap will be disseminated via various ceremonies, launches, meetings and mass media.


The global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap is a coalition of international stakeholders focusing on the importance of handwashing and child health. Established in 2001, the partnership aims to give families, schools, and communities in developing countries the power to prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections by supporting the universal promotion and practice of proper handwashing with soap at critical times.

Included among the coalition’s 14 international stakeholders are: the Academy for Educational Development; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Colgate-Palmolive; International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research; Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Procter & Gamble; The Water and Sanitation Program; The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; The World Bank; UNICEF; Unilever; USAID and WaterAid.

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Attention broadcasters:  Handwashing b-roll and PSAs are available at

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UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For further information, please contact:

Emily Meehan, UNICEF Media, New York, + 1 212 326-7224,

Katie Carroll, Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, + 1 202 884-8551,

Dave Trouba, Water Supply &  Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), Geneva,
+ 41 22 560 81 78,

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, One UN Communication Office, Viet Nam, +84 4 3822 4383 ext 118 or



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