October 15th marks the annual Global Handwashing Day, aimed at increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases. Building on a hugely successful inaugural Global Handwashing Day in 2008 – in which over 120 million children around the world washed their hands with soap in more than 70 countries, this year it is anticipated that millions of children across five continents will celebrate Global Handwashing Day again.
Around the world, children, teachers, parents, celebrities, and government officials plan to mobilize and motivate millions to lather up in order to reduce life-threatening diseases, such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections.
Children suffer disproportionately from diarrheal diseases – with more than 3.5 million children under five dying every year from diarrhea and pneumonia-related diseases. The simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea rates among children under five by almost 50 per cent, and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent.
Under the slogan “Clean hands save lives”, the driving theme for Global Handwashing Day is children and schools. Children acting as agents of change, taking the good practices of hygiene learned at school back into their homes and communities. The active participation and involvement of children, along with culturally sensitive community-based interventions aim at ensuring sustained behavioral change.