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UNICEF on Global Handwashing Day: A simple solution with far-reaching benefits – the power is in our hands

NEW YORK – HA NOI, 15 October 2013 – As the world observes the 6th annual Global Handwashing Day, new figures from UNICEF say 1,400 children under five still die every day from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene.

According to UNICEF, diarrhoea remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality globally. With 600,000 children dying in each year and over 1.7 billion cases, diarrhoeal diseases are also associated with a higher risk of stunting (low weight for age and developmental delay) and take a huge toll on society. However, one of the simplest and most inexpensive barriers to infection is handwashing with soap.

“There is no doubt that hand washing with soap is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent diarrhoea related deaths and disease”, said Mr. Craig Burgess, Chief of Child Survival and Development Programme of UNICEF Viet Nam. “Studies showed that hand washing with soap at critical times - including before eating or preparing food - can reduce diarrheal risk by about 45 per cent”.

According to the Viet Nam Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey done in 2011, in some 86 percent of households surveyed there was place for hand washing, where both water and soap were present. Yet rate of hand washing behaviours continue to be very low. With nearly 30 per cent of children under five year of age stunted, Viet Nam is among 36 countries contributing to 90 per cent child stunting cases in the world.

Global Handwashing Day events around the world are helping promote handwashing and raise awareness of the crucially important role it plays in child survival and overall community health. In Viet Nam, with support from UNICEF, around 2,000 children from 10-15 years old in five lower secondary schools in Dong Thap, Dien Bien, and Gia Lai provinces will be holding Global Hand Washing Day activities. Around 1,000 women and provincial leaders will also participate in promoting hand washing with soap in villages that are remote and thus hard-to-reach as part of the outreach activities of Viet Nam Women’s Union. Actor Xuan Bac, UNICEF Viet Nam Goodwill Ambassador will also promote hand washing with soap in a PSA broadcast on national and provincial televisions on the day.

This year’s theme, announced by the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing, which includes UNICEF, is "The power is in your hands" because, the Partnership says, everyone has the power to create healthier communities through handwashing with soap.

Related info

On the occasion of the celebration of the Global Hand Washing Day (GHWD) 15th Oct, UNICEF Viet Nam's Goodwill Ambassador - The famous comedian Xuan Bac helped children in Viet Nam to understand the benefit of performing hand washing with soap at critical times. The messages are disseminated via a simple and joyful popular children's song "Open your palm and count your fingers". Let's sing along with Xuan Bac and boys and girls of the class 2A3 at Hoang Dieu primary school in Hanoi.

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 works in more than 190 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:

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For further information, including interviews or a detailed list of activities globally, please contact:

  • Rita Ann Wallace, UNICEF New York, Tel: 1 212-326-7586, Mobile: 1 917-213-4034,
  • Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, UNICEF Viet Nam, Tel. 84 4 3822 4383, Mobile 84 904154678,



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