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Global Handwashing Day 2014

Handwashing with soap is the most effective and affordable way to prevent diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infections in developing countries, but it is seldom practiced.
Handwashing with soap is the most effective and affordable way to prevent diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infections in developing countries, but it is seldom practiced.
A young boy in Sierra Leone washes his hands.
A young boy in Sierra Leone washes his hands.

Why Handwashing: Each year 4 million children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea and pneumonia. However, there is a simple, cost-effective way to help prevent these needless deaths—handwashing with soap. Handwashing with soap can decrease rates of diarrhea by 50% and rates of pneumonia by 45%. These improvements not only have a positive impact on health gains, but also improve school attendance rates and future job opportunities. This simple intervention allows millions of children to grow up happier and healthier, attend school, and reach their full potential.

This year, as the Ebola epidemic rages on in West Africa, encouraging positive handwashing behaviors is especially critical. Handwashing is one of the simplest measures to slow the spread of Ebola. Because Ebola is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids (blood, vomit, feces, etc.) of an infected person, handwashing with soap can help to remove infection-causing germs from the hands before transmission occurs, and before the germs can be spread to other surfaces or people. As such, it is a fundamental method in preventing further spread of the disease.

What Plan is doing: Globally, Plan works closely with schools, communities, and governments to promote handwashing with soap at critical times and the positive impact it can have on health and education. Plan has worked with communities and youth around the world to improve knowledge about how and when to wash hands to prevent the transmission of disease. In addition, as part of its Ebola response, Plan has provided many communities with handwashing and hygiene kits and continues to promote the importance of handwashing with soap.

Global Handwashing Day: To highlight the importance of handwashing, Plan celebrated Global Handwashing Day on Wednesday October 15! In country programs all over the world, Plan promoted handwashing and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives. Youth participated in a variety of interactive activities, from handwashing demonstrations to games and competitions, all of which reinforced the importance of handwashing with soap.