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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene


© UNICEF/UN09739/Ademuyiwa
Representatives of Theatre for Social Change helping children of Jamestown, Accra wash their hands during the Theatre Play on Ebola and Cholera Prevention in Accra, Ghana.

Something as simple as handwashing can save lives. Washing hands with soap at critical times, like after going to the toilet or before eating, can have a significant impact on children’s health. Good hygiene practices reduce the incidence of diseases such as pneumonia, trachoma, scabies, skin and eye infections and diarrhoea-related diseases like cholera and dysentery.

Research shows that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the number of incidents of diarrhea, a disease which can be deadly for children, by around 50 percent.

The key to improving hygiene practices amongst children is to promote behavioral change within schools and communities. UNICEF leads a number of campaigns aimed at motivating, informing and educating children about good hygiene practices.

UNICEF’s work in hygiene
UNICEF programmes help to promote handwashing and behaviour change by advocating for increased funding for hygiene activities and the inclusion of hygiene in government policies and strategies. It also supports national and sub-national handwashing campaigns, which can include recruiting high-profile decision makers and celebrities as handwashing advocates.

UNICEF ensures that all WASH programmes in the field include strong hygiene components, especially in emergency response programmes. We continue to develop strategies and tools to encourage handwashing promotion by community health and outreach workers and work with schools to empower children as hygiene ambassadors and agents of change within their families and communities.

Hygiene and behavior change
Education and communication are important components of a promoting hygiene, however education alone does not necessarily result in improved practices. Promoting behaviour change is a gradual process that involves working closely with communities, studying existing beliefs, defining motivation strategies, designing appropriate communication tools and finally, encouraging practical steps towards positive practices.

Communities should be fully engaged in the process at all stages using participatory processes, and special attention should be given to building on local knowledge and promoting existing positive traditional practices.

In order for behaviour change to be effective, it needs to take place not only at the community level, but also among decision makers as well.

Global Handwashing Day is 15 October every year.


Global Public-Partnership for Handwashing

Factsheet on Handwashing with Soap

WASH in Schools



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