Posted by News Express | 15 October 2015 | 2,228 times
Handwashing with soap is dangerously low in many countries despite its proven benefits to child health, UNICEF said today, as the world marks the 2015 Handwashing Day.
The eighth Global Handwashing Day comes less than a month after the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hygiene for the first time in the global agenda. One of the SDG targets is to achieve ‘access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene’ by 2030.
UNICEF says improvements in hygiene must supplement access to water and sanitation, or children will continue to fall victim to easily preventable diseases like diarrhoea.
“Along with drinking water and access to toilets, hygiene – particularly handwashing with soap – is the essential third leg of the stool holding up the Goal on water and sanitation,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. “From birth – when unwashed hands of birth attendants can transmit dangerous pathogens – right through babyhood, school and beyond, handwashing is crucial for a child’s health. It is one of the cheapest, simplest, most effective health interventions we have.”
Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest child mortality rates globally, also has particularly low levels of handwashing. The latest report from UNICEF and WHO says that in 38 countries in the region with available data, levels are at best 50 per cent.
Even health care facilities often lack places for handwashing. Some 42 per cent of them in WHO’s Africa Region have no water source available within 500 meters.
Meanwhile, according to the UN’s latest estimates, over 800 of the approximately 1,400 child deaths from diarrhoea each day can be attributed to inadequate water, sanitation or hygiene. Infants in the first month of life are particularly vulnerable to diseases transmitted by unwashed hands.
A number of activities around the world are marking the Global Handwashing Day and aim to teach the importance of handwashing with soap especially to children.
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