Over 300,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases linked to limited access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in 2015

 

Over 300,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases linked to limited access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in 2015

On 14 October 2016, a boy cooks at a school in Les Cayes, Department du Sud, Haiti.  Ecole Pierre Guerrieris currently in use as a living space or shelter for several hundred people who have lost their homes to hurricane Matthew. Although the school year should have begun, all public schools in the area hit by the hurricane remain closed or turned over to the displaced. 

Hurricane Matthew passed over Haiti on Tuesday October 4, 2016, with heavy rains and winds. While the capital Port au Prince was mostly spared from the full strength of the class 4 hurricane, the western area of Grand Anse, however was in the direct path. 

The cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie received the full force sustaining wind and water damage across wide areas. Coastal towns were severely damaged as were many homes in remote mountainous regions. International relief efforts are underway to provide food water and shelter to the people affected by the storm.

An estimated 500,000 children live in the Grande Anse Department and Grand South Department in southern Haiti, the areas worst hit by Hurricane Matthew. UNICEF had prepositioned emergency supplies with national authorities to reach up to 10,000 people. On 8 October, six water trucks arrived in Jeremie and Les Cayes, the respective capital cities within the Departments. Additional water and sanitation supplies, such as water purification tablets, water bladders and plastic sheeting, have been dispatched to the most affected departments in the westernmost tip of Haiti. As of 10 October, UNICEF delivered blankets, buckets, water purifying equipment and cholera diagnostic kits. UNICEF is working to reinforce good hygiene practices, especially in temporary shelters, in order to minimize the outbreak of disease. An investigation is underway to confirm the areas affected by cholera, and to determine the cross-over with hurricane-affected areas.

© UNICEF/UN035926/LeMoyne

Simple act of handwashing with soap could save thousands of lives

NEW YORK/HONG KONG, 14 October 2016 – With cholera spreading fast in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, and with a new outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen, UNICEF urges children, families and communities to make washing hands with soap a habit to help prevent the spread of diseases.

On the eve of Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF says that, in 2015, more than 300,000 children under the age of five died globally from diarrhoeal infections linked to poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation – a rate of more than 800 per day. Yet many of these deaths could have been prevented through the simple act of handwashing with soap.

“Every year, 1.4 million children are dying from largely preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea,” said UNICEF’s global head of water, sanitation and hygiene Sanjay Wijesekera. “These are staggering numbers, but they could be greatly reduced by working with children and families to adopt a very straightforward solution – handwashing. We know, for example, that handwashing with soap before meals and after using the toilet could reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal infections by 40 per cent.”

Proper handwashing practice also contributes to the healthy development of children by keeping them in school. Handwashing actually improves school attendance by reducing the spread of preventable diseases, which means children are not staying home because of illness.

“Handwashing just makes sense as a frontline preventive measure to keep children safe from disease – it’s simple, cost effective and a proven lifesaver,” said Wijesekera.

In Haiti, a country with poor water and sanitation infrastructure and a persistent cholera outbreak, suspected cholera cases and acute diarrhoea have increased sharply since the October 4 hurricane.

“This is everyone’s worst nightmare,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Less than two weeks after the hurricane, cholera may be spreading in areas where it previously barely existed and diarrhoea is preying on already vulnerable children. Immediate action is essential – children’s health is at risk.”

Facts on Handwashing:

  • 1 gram of faeces contains 100 billion bacteria.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 people globally wash their hands after using the toilet.
  • Each year, 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhoea and pneumonia.
  • When children wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet or before eating, they reduce their risk of getting diarrhoea by more than 40 per cent.
  • Acute respiratory infections like pneumonia are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five.
  • Evidence suggests that handwashing with soap after using the toilet and before eating could reduce the pneumonia infection rate among children by around a quarter.