In the Fight to Save Children’s Lives, Handwashing Takes Center Stage

Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal disease and pneumonia, which together are responsible for approximately 3.5 million child deaths every year.
Oct. 15 marks the first ever Global Handwashing Day, celebrated in more than 70 countries across five continents in an effort to mobilize and motivate millions around the world to wash their hands with soap.
Research on handwashing with soap at critical moments - before handling food and after using the toilet - shows that handwashing rates around the world are low, ranging from zero to 34 percent. Making handwashing an ingrained hygiene habit can help reduce child morbidity rates from diarrhea by almost 50 percent, according to a study published by the British medical journal, The Lancet.
Partnerships with governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, religious and community leaders, schools, and the private sector are essential to achieve this large scale, community-sensitive, and sustainable change.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 the International Year of Sanitation (IYS). Global Handwashing Day reinforces the IYS’s call for improved sanitation and hygiene practices. Handwashing with soap at critical moments could significantly impact health, survival, child mortality, and help reduce poverty. Stepping up investment for water, sanitation, and hygiene will speed the achievement of all eight Millennium Development Goals.
“Handwashing with soap is one of the most basic, economical means of reducing the spread of disease in the developing world,” said World Bank Director for Energy, Transport, and Water, Jamal Saghir. “The World Bank welcomes Global Handwashing Day and we encourage our partners to continue their support of this important intiative.”
The World Bank’s Sanitation, Hygiene, and Wastewater Portfolio carries 59 sanitation and sewerage projects, 26 of which specifically address hygiene.  
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“The Water and Sanitation Program is proud to be a part of the first Global Handwashing Day, an event we believe will help to raise awareness of the great potential for saving lives enhanced by the simple act of washing hands at critical times,” said Jaehyang So, Manager of the Water and Sanitation Program. "By steering the world's attention to this simple, cost-effective solution, we hope to multiply exponentially the occurrence of safer hygiene behavior until it becomes routine practice for all."
The inaugural Global Handwashing Day focuses on children and schools. From Kenya to Peru, India to South Africa, Ethiopia to Indonesia, playgrounds and classrooms, local communities and big cities, this week will hold high profile, awareness-raising and educational activities to accelerate handwashing behavior change on a scale never seen before. After learning about improved hygiene behavior in schools, children can act as agents of change by taking these messages home to their families and communities.
Global Handwashing Day is an initiative of the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), which is comprised ofthe Water and Sanitation Program, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, the USAID/Hygiene Improvement Project, and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative
For more information, please visit: http://www.globalhandwashingday.org/
Contact Name: 
Christopher Walsh or Eloy Parra
Contact Email: 
cwalsh@worldbank.org or eparra@worldbank.org