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Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy 5th Global Handwashing Day!


Five years ago, on this same date, October 15, I joined the first ever Global Handwashing Day in the Philippines led by UNICEF, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Health (DOH) and Safeguard.  And back then, some people would sarcastically comment "Why handwashing?"  or "Why waste time on it?" And back then, most people didn't realize the importance of handwashing.  They weren't aware that CLEAN HANDS, SAVE LIVES.  It may sound too simple and basic, and hard to believe for some, but it is true!

Why?  Handwashing with water is not enough!  Handwashing with water and soap breaks down disease-causing bacteria  and has been cited as one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diseases that kill millions of children every year such as diarrhea, pneumonia, acute respiratory infection, intestinal helminthes infection and intestinal worms!   

Here are the alarming facts:

• Diarrhea is the 4th leading cause of deaths among children less than 5 years and the 3rd leading cause of child illness. It is estimated to cause 12% or almost 10,000 deaths a year (Making Child Survival Work in the Philippines, DOH/WHO/UNICEF, 2007).

 • Between 10 and 20%, or about 1.5 million cases of children under five have diarrhea at any one time. (Making Child Survival Work in the Philippines, DOH/WHO/UNICEF, 2007. Figures based on National Demographic and Health Survey measuring cases over two weeks prior to the survey)

 • Pneumonia is the 3rd leading cause of deaths among children under five, estimated at more than 10,000 children (Making Child Survival Work in the Philippines, DOH/WHO/UNICEF 2007).

 • About 10% of children below 5 years had symptoms of Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) – cough accompanied by short, rapid breathing in the 2 weeks preceding the survey. This translates to about 1 million new episodes or cases in children (NDHS, 2003).

• 70% of preschool children are host to at least one type of intestinal helminthes infection and 7 out of 10 children (aged 3-12) suffer from intestinal worms (STH Survey, 2004).

And with the simple yet lifesaving act of handwashing with soap can, the incidence of diarrhea among children under five can be reduced by more than 40 percent, and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent.

Global Handwashing Day also aims to educate the public that there are 5 critical times for handwashing: before eating, before handling food, after using the toilet, after handling your pets and after playtime. These are key moments when there is a high risk of transmitting germs from the hands to the mouth. As such, instilling the habit of handwashing with soap during these critical times among young children is an important intervention to help reduce child morbidity and mortality.

After five years, more and more people are learning the value of handwashing with soap.  And on this 5th birthday of Global Handwashing Day, Safeguard focuses on the importance of handwashing with soap after playtime, one of the five critical times, by donating playgrounds with handwashing stations. At events held in Sitio Una, Taguig and Gawad Kalinga Village in Victoria, Tarlac, Safeguard proudly unveiled its birthday gift to the communities - the first playgrounds.

Mr. Chad Sotelo, Country Marketing Manager for Safeguard, explained, “Outdoor play is an enjoyable activity for children but it is also important in their development.” However, based on a recent study, many mothers prevent their children from playing outdoors because they are worried about their children’s safety. Furthermore, 75 percent of children play on the streets while only 3 percent play on a public playground.

“Through the donation of these playgrounds, Safeguard wants to enable children to play in an environment safe from harm and disease-causing germs,” says Mr. Sotelo. In order to ensure that the playgrounds are sustainable and safe, Safeguard partnered with play experts Play Pilipinas.

“We at Play Pilipinas believe that every child should be given the chance to play, and to play in a safe and sound environment. Our advocacy is to provide low-cost, sustainable, and child-safe playgrounds for Filipino children. We are happy to have a partner in Safeguard that ensures kids will also have immediate access to soap and water after playing,” says Ms. Sigrid Perez, co-founder of Play Pilipinas.

Mr. Paul Perez, who co-founded Play Pilipinas with Sigrid, explains that the design of the playground differs per site, reflecting the character of the city. “For Taguig, we tried to mirror the emerging high-rises and so the playground has high and low spaces as well,” added Mr. Perez.

These new playgrounds at Sitio Una and GK Victoria, and 3 others to come, will represent not only the past 5 years of Global Handwashing Day, but also Safeguard’s continued commitment to promote proper hygiene and health education for many more years to come. “Handwashing education is and will continue to be the primary advocacy of Safeguard – not just on October 15, but every single day,” says Mr. Sotelo. Together with partners UNICEF and Fit for School, Procter & Gamble, through Safeguard, has reached over a million children in ten provinces in the country, teaching them the lifesaving habit of handwashing with soap.

Safeguard invites everyone to join our 5th year of Global Handwashing Day in the Philippines. Join the celebration by tweeting with the hashtag #Happy5thGHD. But, most importantly, don’t forget to wash your hands with Safeguard especially during the five critical moments: before eating, before handling food, after using the toilet, after handling your pets and after playtime!

foydi at the 1st Global Handwashing Day in 2008

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