Formula 1 Driver and UNICEF Ambassador, Fernando Alonso, participated today in a visit to a primary school in Tugarpur -a village in the state of Uttar Pradesh, one hour South-East of Delhi- to promote handwashing with soap. “This very simple act can save hundreds of thousands of children who needlessly die every year,” he said.
In India, more than 1,000 young children die every day from diarrhea due to the lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. “Hygiene is critical to good health as it reduces the transmission of disease and the number of deaths,” Mr. Alonso stated. In fact, washing hands with soap at critical times –after using toilets, before eating and preparing food- can reduce the incidence of diarrhea in children under five by more than 40 per cent.
“Halting the spread of diarrheal disease is not complicated or costly. You do not need a winning formula to save the lives of millions of young children around the world. The solution already exists: soap and water. Let’s make ‘wet, rub’ rinse’ a routine for everyone. Schools are the best place to start spreading the message” he pointed out.
During the visit which coincides with the Formula 1 Race to be held in New Delhi on 28 October, Mr. Alonso engaged in a school based activity of hand washing with children on the occasion of the month-long Global Handwashing Day Campaign promoted by UNICEF and other counterparts. The two-time world champion interacted with students and teachers to get to understand the situation of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in the school.
After acknowledging the efforts done by the Government of India towards institutionalizing handwashing with soap in schools, Mr. Alonso highlighted the importance of sanitation facilities as a critical factor for ensuring enrolment and preventing drop outs. “Improved sanitation facilities, with hygiene practices built into the school routine, contribute to a healthy environment for all the community, reducing dropout rates and enhancing educational performance among children. This is especially critical for girls,” he said.
Sue Coates, Chief of WASH in UNICEF India, who accompanied the UNICEF Ambassador throughout the visit explained that to ensure clean hands for all it is crucial to support initiatives involving children and youth as they are effective agents of change. “Working with their teachers and peers, they can create an active learning environment in school and also carry messages back home to motivate their families to hand wash with soap at critical times. We are currently supporting the Government of India to institutionalize handwashing with soap in schools before the Mid-Day Meal so that over 110 million children are reached every day”.
Mr. M.K.S Sundaram, District Magistrate, Gautam Budh Nagar, Uttar Pradesh said, “Handwashing Day should not be commemorated for a day or week, it should be for life.” He encouraged all children to practice handwashing at critical times.
This year the message on handwashing with soap is being carried by millions of school children in over 100 countries in a month of activities. In India, children in 1.3 million primary and upper primary schools are participating in the celebrations to mark Global Handwashing Day.
UNICEF with the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing is also rolling out a social media campaign with the hashtag #iwashmyhands which has already reached thousands around the world. The partnership has also developed a ‘World Wash Up’ game on the Global Handwashing Day site that invites players to zap germs.
As part of this campaign, and with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap, UNICEF has launched an online platform http://www.donatetounicef.org/killthegerms/# with videos, game, feature stories, photo essays and a photo contest.
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About Fernando Alonso:
Fernando Alonso was appointed a UNICEF Spain Ambassador in 2005. Since then, he has joined several campaigns in support of UNICEF and its partners, and has made three field visits. In 2005 and 2009 Fernando visited UNICEF programmes to promote Childhood Rights in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2011 he visited a Children’s Hospital in Delhi (India) where he vaccinated some children against polio.
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.killthegerms.in
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 and its work visit: www.unicef.org
A SNAPSHOP ON HANDWASHING AND SANITATION IN INDIA
• The practice of handwashing with soap in India is not widespread. A study showed that only 53 per cent of the population wash hands with soap after defecation, 38 per cent before eating, and 30 per cent before preparing food.
• Diarrhoea and respiratory infections are the number one cause for child deaths in India. More than 1,000 children die every day from diarrhoea.
• The Government of India is aiming at institutionalize handwashing with soap in schools before Mid Day Meal. 110 million children are reached every day.
• Nearly half (51%) of the schools have a designated hand washing space and in 44% of the schools observed the hand washing space was being used.
• Only close to one in ten (12%) of schools had soap/detergent available at the hand washing space.
• Nearly half (49%) of the students washed their hands using only water. Only two out of five (42%) students use soap/detergent.
• Globally, India has the largest number of people – more than 600 million – still defecating in the open. Less than half the population of India use toilets.
• A very low proportion of the rural population in India uses improved sanitation (facilities which ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact). Almost 70 per cent do not have access to toilets.
• Although access to sanitation in rural India is improving, the gain is inequitable. Open defecation is still increasing among the poorest 20% of the population.
• There has been good progress in providing toilet facilities in schools in India. The proportion of schools having toilets increased over a five-year period.
• Almost 28 million school children across India do not have access to school toilet facilities.
• Although access to improved sanitation is steadily increasing in India, the use of improved sanitation in the country remains an enormous challenge.
• 7 states in India (Orissa, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar) account for almost 50% (13.8 million) children without access to toilet facilities in schools.
• The number of schools having toilet facility in India has increased from 0.6 million (~52%) in 2005-06 to ~1.14 million (84%) in 2010-11.
• In Indian rural schools, toilet facility increased from 0.4 million schools (49%) in 2005-06 to 0.7 million schools (79%) in 2009-10, where they have at least one toilet facility.
• The number of schools in India having separate toilet facility for girls increased from ~0.4 million (~37%) in 2005-06 to ~0.8 million (~60%) in 2010.
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For further information, please contact:
Caroline den Dulk, Chief, Advocacy & Partnerships, UNICEF India. Mobile: +91-98-1810-6093
María Fernández, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India. Mobile:+91-99-581-76291
Geetanjali Master, Communciation Specialist, UNICEF India, Mobile:+91-98-181-05861
Sonia Sarkar. Communication Officer, UNICEF India. Mobile: +91-98-10170289