WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

UNICEF touts handwashing to fight disease

A new study from UNICEF found that 1,400 children under five die every day from diarrheal disease caused by a lack of safe water, basic hygiene and sanitation, the agency said on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the 6th annual Global Handwashing Day, which international agencies around the world commemorated with events around the world to promote handwashing and raise awareness about handwashing's importance.

"The simple act of handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to save children's lives," Sanjay Wijesekera, the global head of UNICEF's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programs. "Washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrheal disease and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children and communities."

In Ethiopia, approximately five million children participated in handwashing demonstrations and workshops throughout the country. Yemen held celebrations in 3,300 schools involving 1.4 million children and engaged in a mass media campaign on handwashing. Other events were held in Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Mali, The Gambia, Indonesia and Bolivia.

"The evidence is clear," Wijesekera said. "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. 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."

According to UNICEF, diarrheal diseases cause 600,000 childhood deaths annually and more 1.7 billion cases each year. Diarrheal disease are associated with a higher risk of low weight for age and developmental delay. One of the simplest and most inexpensive barriers to infection is handwashing with soap.