October 15th is global handwashing day. It is the first-ever event launched by the Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) and is designed to introduce the idea of an annual event that raises awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.
According to the campaign website, poor hygiene and lack of access to sanitation contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrhoeal disases and account for 1.5 million diarrhoea-related under-five deaths each year. The World Health Organization stated that, of the 161,000 children that died in Indonesia in 2006, 19% died from diarrhoea and 14% from pneumonia. Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections. Yet, despite its life-saving potential, handwashing with soap is seldom practiced and difficult to promote.
One success story is the Safeguard School Program in Pakistan that promotes handwashing awareness and brings about the habit of change by using cartoons to communicate messages that are relevant, memorable and engaging for school children. In the past four years, the program has empowered more than 5 million school children between the ages of 6 and 11 years with hygiene education.