Sanitation – a forgotten goal in health development.

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October 16, 2013

Handwashing remains an important issue for global health. Signs may be commonly seen outside hospital wards, reminding visitors to wash their hands, but it is an issue which reaches beyond hospital infections such as MRSA and C-Difficile.

Diarrhoea remains the biggest cause of death in under-5s, and there are over 1.7 billion cases of diarrhoeal diseases that are associated with a higher risk of stunting. Ban Ki-Moon, UN General Secretary, had this to say on the subject:

“Repeated diarrhoea can cause childhood stunting. These children are more vulnerable to disease and their brains do not develop as they should”. It is plain that investment in sanitation is a down payment for a sustainable future, he added.

Washing hands with soap can save up to 600,000 children per year. Though deemed the single most cost-effective health intervention, handwashing with soap at critical times still only has observed rates of 0-34% in some regions, despite evidence that it can reduce up to 47% of the 1.7 billion cases of diarrhoeal disease that results in 1.3 million deaths of children under-5 every year.

Global Handwashing Day, held annually on October 15th, is a worldwide celebration of handwashing, which hopes to raise awareness on current handwashing practices and to support a culture of handwashing with soap by advocating its benefits.

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