The fight against child mortality continues as South Sudan joins the rest of the world in celebrating the Global Hand Washing Day under the theme "help more children reach their fifth birthday."
Child mortality figures released by UNICEF last month show that globally, some 2,000 children under five die each day from diarrhoeal diseases. Of these the vast majority - or about 1,800 children per day - die from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene.
Though the number has significantly declined in the five years since the Global Handwashing Day was established, UNICEF says it is still too high.
In South Sudan, hand washing with soap at critical moments is seldom practiced. According to a 2010 Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) survey, only 20 percent wash their hands with soap 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 diarrhoeal deaths by half, and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one quarter," said UNICEF's Chief of WASH, Ken Maskall.
The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) 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.
"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," said Peter Mahal Dhieu, the Director General for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation.
"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
About Global Handwashing Day:
Global Handwashing Day is celebrated on October 15. The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap initiated Global Handwashing Day in 2008, and it is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe. Visit www.globalhandwashingday.org
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For more information about UNICEF South Sudan and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org/