“Clean hands save lives” — Global Handwashing Day 2011 is celebrated by millions of people worldwide

Millions of people across the globe celebrated the 4th annual Global Handwashing Day on 15 October 2011, emphasizing the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective, simple, and affordable way to prevent disease.

UNICEF Pakistan launches ‘Sabu’

Over 1 million children took part in Pakistan, where UNICEF supported the launch of a new animated children’s character, ‘Sabu’, to help teach children the importance of handwashing with soap.

Celebrations in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Peru, India

In Afghanistan, 1.7 million children from 1,700 schools washed hands; in Eritrea, 326,809 children in 1,272 schools did the same. In Peru, the government declared a national handwashing week as of 10 October, and events involved 3.5 million students in 20,000 schools. In India, eight million children in Rajasthan and all 154,000 schools in Uttar Pradesh participated in handwashing events (listen to Head of UNICEF’s hand washing campaign Lizette Burgers talking on UN Radio).

Two-week handwashing campaign in Haiti

UNICEF and its partners undertook a two-week handwashing campaign in Haiti, which included the distribution of 300,000 bars of soap, reaching 1,500 schools, 10 hospitals and more than 160 county health centres.

SMS campaign in Uganda

In two districts in Uganda, around 4,000 local people received an SMS message on the importance of washing hands. This was an initiative of Text to Change in partnership with USAID through STRIDES for Family Health and Unilever Uganda.

Global Handwashing Day 2010

These and other activities promise to surpass celebrations in 2010, which saw 200 million people and 700,000 schools in over 70 countries honouring the day. The mass handwashing demonstrations in Bangladesh , involving 18 million children from all the schools, were used as a platform to launch the government’s National Hygiene Campaign.

Obstacles to handwashing with sosp

One of the biggest obstacles to handwashing is determining how people are supposed to practice good handwashing behaviors without water and soap, writes Kerry Gallo of Children Without Worms.

In many schools and communities in sub-Saharan Africa, clean water in sufficient quantities is a rarity […]. In the dry season [when] every spare drop of water is needed for drinking and cooking — little wonder then that handwashing will be seen as an unnecessary waste of this precious resource. [I]n schools where kids and teachers come from poor homes, the use of soap is guarded, meaning kids must ask to use it—creating another point where the handwashing system falters.

Handwashing station installed by CARE. Unfortunately there was no soap. Photo: Kerry Gallo:

Low-cost, low-tech handwashing stations made of buckets with simple taps attached are a good option for many rural schools, says Gallo, but they need to be maintained, especially during the dry season. For an overview of options consult WSP’s Enabling Technologies for Handwashing with Soap Database.

The value of private sector involvement in handwashing promotion

Sarika Bansal asks, in her blog post, whether the private sector can drive meaningful social progress, based on the success the public-private partnership that set up Global Handwashing Day. Such advocacy efforts, Bansal explains, can only succeed if there is a clear link back to a revenue stream, like selling more soap in the case of Global Handwashing Day. The public sector benefits from the great experience of consumer goods companies in promoting behaviour change. A second condition for success is that the social cause should be bigger than the company.

Changing Behaviours through Song and Dance

Juliana Rincón Parra has collected some fun handwashing song and dance videos from Japan, Mexico, Cambodia, Philippines, Mozambique, Colombia, Haiti and Honduras.

Not included, but destined to become a classic is “I wanna wash my hands” by Doctor Doctor.

For a list of recent research and other resources on handwashing see WASHplus Weekly, no. 7, 07 Oct 2011

Source: UNICEF, 14 Oct 2011 ; UN Radio, 15 Oct 2011 ; UNICEF, 19 Oct 2011 ; Kerry Gallo, End the Neglect, 15 Oct 2011 ; Sarika Bansal, Forbes, 13 Oct 2011

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One response to ““Clean hands save lives” — Global Handwashing Day 2011 is celebrated by millions of people worldwide

  1. I had never heard of Global Handwashing Day before stumbling upon your blog. I had just posted a section in mine about the need in the United States – where we have water – to have children wash their hands more at school to cut down on illnesses. I never imagined the challenges of others who may not have access to clean water consistently. Another reason to be thankful.

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