South Asia: millions of children take part in Global Handwashing Day
Updated - Thursday 30 October 2008
Millions of children and adults across South Asia took part in the first Global Handwashing Day on 15 October 2008. The aim of the initiative was to show how washing the hands with soap can effectively prevent disease.
Global Handwashing Day was an initiative of the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USAID and soap manufacturers Unilever and Procter & Gamble.
In South Asian countries the focus of the campaign has been in schools and through the media. In India, top cricket star Sachin Tendulkar  was recruited to front the campaign. Washing hands was the topic of Afghan television and radio talk shows and Pakistani newscasts. Nepal's new Maoist government sent out mobile text messages. In Bhutan, an animated video has been produced to get the message across. In many countries, competitions have been organised to make schoolchildren more aware of the importance of handwashing with soap.
UNICEF says that washing hands with soap is much more effective in combating disease than than just using water. It can reduce the risk of diarrhoeal diseases by over 40% and of respiratory infections by 30%.
 Watch promotional video clips featuring Sachin Tendulkar and others here.
- Hygiene: survey of handwashing practices in Bangladesh, Source South Asia, 15 Oct 2008;
- South Asia: 778 million still practice open defecation, safe water use has improved, says new report, Source South Asia, 18 Jul 2008.
Web site: Global Handwashing Day
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