Beijing, 20 October, 2008 – A major event was held on 18 October to celebrate Global Handwashing Day and highlight the importance of handwashing at home, school, and the workplace. The event, which featured games and educational activities for children, promoted correct handwashing technique and attracted an estimated 2,000 local residents and students. The event was organized by National Patriotic Health Campaign Committee and Health Education Institute of China CDC with support from UNICEF.
"We are very happy that so many people in China and around the world are celebrating global handwashing day," said Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF China Representative, "We need to get the message out that handwashing costs very little and can save many lives."
Next on China's calendar of events celebrating Global Handwashing Day is the 25 October launch of a major hygiene promotion campaign in Sichuan Province's Beichuan County, epicentre of the devastating earthquake that killed 70,000 people in May. The campaign will target the 1.5 million people displaced by the earthquake, many living in cramped or unsanitary conditions, and call attention to handwashing as the single most cost-effective health intervention.
Handwashing is a simple and ordinary behaviour, but one with extraordinary results, especially for children. The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the 18 million children who die every year are children under the age of 5. If handwashing were better promoted, about half of these poor children could be saved.
In recent years, UNICEF China has worked with government counterparts to promote hygiene and handwashing, critical in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic that struck China in 2003. Handwashing is also effective in reducing the risk of the outbreak of disease like avian influenza; and foot, mouth, and hand disease; as well as chronic diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections.
Efforts to promote hygiene take on special significance in 2008, the International Year of Sanitation. Over 70 countries have responded to the call for improved hygiene and sanitation by hosting events for Global Handwashing Day. UNICEF's hygiene campaigns in China, which include strong media participation, will continue over the coming years to promote knowledge and change hygiene attitudes and practices.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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