Handwashing one important tool in the Ebola fight – UNICEF

 

Handwashing one important tool in the Ebola fight – UNICEF

Global Handwashing Day a reminder that the simple practice saves lives
NEW YORK/ HONG KONG, 15 October 2014 – As the world celebrates the seventh Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF said the fight against Ebola further underscores the practice of handwashing in disease prevention.
“Handwashing with soap is one of the cheapest, most effective ‘vaccines’ against viral diseases, from the seasonal flu, to the common cold,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes. “Our teams on the ground in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are stressing the importance of handwashing as part of a raft of measures that are needed to halt the spread of Ebola. It is not a magic bullet, but it is a means of additional defence which is cheap and readily available.”
Hans Hasan, a participant of the SWASH club; poses for a photograph while washing her hands at Kingugi School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Wednesday, April 2, 2014. The WASH club teaches childrenthe importance of hand washing before eating and after visiting the toilet and encourages children to educate their families and peers of the imporance of having clean hands.
© UNICEF/UNI161918/Holt
UNICEF has been leading in raising awareness about Ebola in the affected countries, working to counter misconceptions about the disease that put even more people at risk. UNICEF has also distributed protective supplies such as gowns, gloves, and bleach – as well as 1.5 million bars of soap in Sierra Leone alone, and millions more in Liberia and Guinea.
“It is clear there is no simple fix, and it is going to take a massive international effort to stem the tide of this disease,” said Wijesekera. “But it is crucial to get the word out on what measures can be taken now in the hardest hit areas, even as additional help continues to arrive from the outside. Handwashing is one of those measures.”
Apart from Ebola, figures released recently by UNICEF and the World Health Organization say in 2013 more than 340,000 children under five – almost 1,000 a day – died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. As the Ebola response takes its toll on the health services in the affected countries, the practice of handwashing is even more important in warding off these common diseases.
On 3 February, (foreground) Grade 2 student Venus Mueva, 8, washes her hands with soap and water at a new hand-washing facility after using the latrine, at Santo Niño Elementary School in the town of Tanauan – one of the areas hardest hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan – in Leyte Province, Eastern Visayas Region. Her school, which reopened on 8 January, was badly damaged by the storm. Classes are now being held in tents and makeshift or repaired classrooms. UNICEF has provided tents, educational supplies, latrines and hand-washing facilities at the school and is also supporting teacher training. Many of the students lost family members and other relatives during the disaster, and most have lost their homes and belongings. Venus’s 4-year-old sister, Viana, was swept away during the storm. Her home was also destroyed. She and her parents now live in a temporary shelter located just a few metres from the school. In early February 2014 in the Philippines, Government-led relief operations continue following the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country on 8 November. The typhoon, known locally as Yolanda, was one of the strongest to ever to make landfall. More than 6,200 people have been killed in the disaster and 1,785 are missing. The storm also destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, roads, communications and other basic infrastructure, and damaged power and water supply systems. An estimated 14.1 million people, including more than 5.9 million children, have been affected; and, three months after the massive storm, 4.1 million people, including over 1.7 million children, remain displaced. Many of the displaced are still living in damaged or makeshift dwellings, temporary tents and evacuation centres. In response to the emergency, UNICEF has delivered 100 tons of relief supplies for typhoon-affected communities, including emergency health kits (each containing medicine, medical supplies and basic medical equipment to meet the needs of 10,000 displace

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0124/Pirozzi
The annual Global Handwashing Day celebrations are occasions to emphasise the role of handwashing with soap in the prevention of common but potentially lethal diseases such as diarrhoea, and many countries around the world are holding activities to promote the practice.

In Sri Lanka, more than 38,400 students in 96 schools will take part in handwashing events, along with politicians and members of the public. In Lebanon, the SMS message, ‘Save your heath; wash your hands’ will be sent to hundreds of mobile phone users; while in Mali, there will be a nationwide media campaign with handwashing events and soap distribution in dozens of schools. Major events and celebrations are also scheduled in The Gambia, Nigeria, and Cambodia, among other countries.

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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 www.globalhandwashingday.org