As the world celebrates another annual Global Handwashing Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) emphasizes the fact that the very simple act of handwashing with soap can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children who needlessly die every year.
Child mortality figures released by the UNICEF in 2018 show that some 2,000 children under five die each day from diarrhoeal diseases, of which some 1,800 children per day, die due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene.
It is a relief to know that young South African children are being educated. As part of advocating for clean hands and improved hygiene facilitated learning sessions, Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s development programme is reaching hundreds of young children across 20 Early Childhood Development centres and 14 Primary Schools, within the Kouga Municipality area.
Global Handwashing Day (15th October) is an annual advocacy initiative dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
Illnesses related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are the world’s greatest threat to young children. Pneumonia and diarrhea claim the lives of more children under age five than measles, AIDS, and malaria combined. Knowledge can be a powerful antidote—that’s why proper WASH education is so critical.
“The programme looks at how to engage the children in a playful engaging way and how to help the children to become independent in their WASH routines through demonstration of and support for step-by-step processes,” explained Caroll Warmberg, Managing Director, ITEC, the service provider responsible for the implementation Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm funded programme.
“We want the message to spread from children to families to communities. It is critically important that handwashing with soap becomes routine for everyone. As diarrhoeal diseases are basically faecal-oral in nature, one of the simplest and most inexpensive barriers to infection is handwashing with soap at critical times, such as before handling food and after using the toilet,” added Warmberg.
“Clean Hands for All,” this year’s theme follows the push to leave no one behind in the Sustainable Development agenda. Inequalities in handwashing facilities and effective handwashing promotion programs can put individuals at higher risk for diseases that impact their health, education, and economic outcomes.
It is reported that local ECD centres and schools, practitioners and teachers do not yet have the competence to set out and maintain hygienic WASH resources, to teach the children independent routines (step-by-step) and to develop a strong knowledge base on issues of WASH for the children. Hence, the programme encourages teachers and ECD Practitioners about how to best build capacity and to integrate hygiene routines smoothly into all programmes for ECD and the Foundation Phase.
“Washing hands with soap is the one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to save lives of millions of children,” says Yang Zhenbo, UNICEF China’s Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. “In this public health campaign, each one of us has a role to play. We call upon all of you to act as advocates for handwashing with soap.”