UN says simple handwash with soap can prevent diseases

posted in: Africa

Photo: UN


New York, US– The UN on Tuesday called on people around the world to always engage in hand-washing to help prevent the spread of diarrhoeal disease and to ensure their health and well-being.

PANA in New York, reported that the call was contained in a message to mark the UN-backed Global Handwashing Day, whose theme this year is: “The Power is in our Hands”.

It stated that the simple use of soap and water can slash highly-preventable diarrhoeal diseases that kill 1,400 children under five every day.

It quoted the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes, Mr. Sanjay Wijesekera as saying that, “washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrhoeal disease and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children and communities”.

He also said: “The simple act of handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to save children’s lives.”

“The evidence is clear. Each individual – every mother, every child, every teacher, every member of every community can contribute to the health of all by just washing their hands,” Mr. Wijesekera said.

“If you knew of something monumental that could benefit the world, you would do it. Everyone has this power, simply wet, lather and rinse with soap and water,” he added.

The statement disclosed that, in Ethiopia, some five million children are participating in handwashing demonstrations and workshops around the country.

“In Yemen, Global Handwashing Day celebrations will take place in 3,300 schools, involving 1.4 million children. There is also a mass media campaign aimed at sensitizing the public around hand washing,” it noted.

It also said that 1,000 schools in Viet Nam, 450 primary schools in Sierra Leone and 424 in Mali, 200 schools in 50 communities in the Gambia, 12 cities in Indonesia and 22 educational institutions in several municipalities in Bolivia would be holding Global Hand Washing Day activities.

According to UNICEF, diarrhoea remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality globally.

Some 600,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene out of a total of over 1.7 billion cases.

These diseases are also associated with a higher risk of stunting, as shown by low weight for age and developmental delay, and they take a huge toll on society.

It, however, stated that “one of the simplest and most inexpensive barriers to infection is hand washing with soap”.

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