UNICEF on Global Handwashing Day: Hand washing with soap can save 320 children who die from diarrhoea every day in Pakistan .

Islamabad (Staff Reporter) As the world observes the sixth Global Handwashing Day tomorrow, UNICEF emphasises that the simple act of washing hands with soap before eating and after defecation can save precious lives of 320 children that die in Pakistan every day due to diarrhoeal diseases – the leading cause of mortality for children under the age of five in the country.

The Government of Pakistan, with support from UNICEF, is implementing a national sanitation programme reaching out to 1.1 million children, women and men in 11 selected districts from all provinces of Pakistan, to improve access to sanitation. Awareness campaigns led by teachers and Lady Health Workers focusing on hand washing with soap are being carried out with strong emphasis on improved sanitation, safe drinking water and hygiene.

“The extent of social, health and economic impact from lack of access to sanitation, hygiene and clean water is tremendous,” said Raja Hasan Abbas, Secretary Climate Change Division. “Poor sanitation, hygiene and limited access to water trigger a downward slide into poverty, which the present government is trying to arrest.”

Globally, diarrhoea remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality. With 600,000 children dying each year and over 1.7 billion cases, diarrhoeal diseases are also associated with a higher risk of stunting (low weight for age and developmental delay). However, the simplest and most inexpensive barrier to infection is hand washing with soap.

During his recent address at the Water Summit in Budapest, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban ki-moon said, “Repeated diarrhoea can cause childhood stunting. These children are more vulnerable to disease and their brains do not develop as they should. It is plain that investment in sanitation is a down-payment on a sustainable future.”

While a lot of efforts have been and are being carried out, much remains to be done. This year, while celebrating the Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF urges all citizens to play their role by taking the message of hand washing with soap to at least one family with children in their surroundings. This would help move jointly towards a safer and healthier Pakistan.

“More people around the world and in Pakistan are now aware of the benefits of hand washing with soap,” said Miriam de Figueroa, UNICEF Deputy Representative for Pakistan. “It is a cost-effective intervention to prevent diarrhoea and the return on this investment is improved health of children, especially the disadvantaged and marginalized.”

14 Oct 2013