South Sudan Joins Other Countries to Celebrate Global Hand Washing Day

Bentiu — Unity State will celebrate Global Hand Wash Day on Tuesday a day later than the rest of the world after officials announced that the event will be held in Guit County on 16 October.

The theme for this year's event is "help more children reach their fifth birthday."

Child mortality figures in a UNICEF report last month report show that globally, some 2,000 children under five year die each day from diseases like diarrhea, around 1,800 of which may have lived if they had access to safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene.

The number has significantly declined in the last five years since Global Hand Washing Day was established, but UNICEF says there is still too high cases.

In South Sudan, hand washing with soap at critical moments is seldom practiced. According to a 2010 Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices survey, only 20 percent of South Sudanese wash their hands using soap after visiting toilets.

UNICEF South Sudan's Ken Maskall recommends that families encourage their children to wash hands before eating and after defecation.

"The simple practice of hand washing with soap consistently before eating and after defecation can save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. This could contribute to reducing diarrhea deaths by half, and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one quarter," Maskall added in a press release.

South Sudan Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in collaboration with UNICEF South Sudan and other partners have intensified campaigns on the importance of hand washing with soap and observing proper hygiene practices throughout the country.

Peter Mahal Dhieu, the Director General for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation said, "With support from UNICEF and other partners, we are working with communities, schools and individuals to encourage washing of hands with soap and clean water during critical times such as immediately after using the toilet, before preparing or eating food, cleaning up after a child, and before feeding a baby as this could reduce diseases and save lives".

"We are pulling out all the stops to ensure that everyone gets the message," says Therese Dooley, UNICEF's senior advisor on sanitation and hygiene based in New York.

"You don't need to invent some Nobel Prize winning formula to save millions of children. The solution already exists soap and water."

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