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Were not attending primary school in 2011, 53 per cent girls.
Clean Hands, Bright Futures
Children in school #3 of Amudarya region have a reason to smile. All their classrooms now have washbasins inside their classrooms. In winters, when the outside temperatures can reach minus 40 degrees Celsius, washing hands used to be a difficult chore. This year, on 15 October, students and teachers will come together to celebrate the Global Handwashing Day – a day marked to save lives by this simple practice of washing hands with soap.
Global Handwashing Day is marked annually to increase awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
This year the theme is “Our hands, our future!” It reminds us that handwashing protects our health, and also allows us to build our futures, as well as those of our communities, and the world.
As per a global estimate, the positive practice of handwashing with soap can prevent many of the 272 million yearly schooldays lost to diarrheal disease, and 50% of the infections acquired in healthcare settings.
In Uzbekistan, UNICEF works with the Government to improve sanitation and promote proper hygiene practices among schoolchildren and communities, especially those living in remote and disadvantaged areas of the country.
“Water, sanitation and hygiene might seem like basic and simple issues, but they are critical elements of an uninterrupted education, as they help children stay healthy and prevent drop-outs from school,” – says Sascha Graumann, UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan. “We are pleased to see that the Government is committed to invest in children’s health, education and well-being not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the best investment in Uzbekistan’s future growth, peace and prosperity,” – Sascha Graumann added.
According to the 2015 survey in selected remote schools, less than 40 percent of students washed hands at critical times during the day (before eating and after toilet use), while over 50 percent stated that handwashing was an important lifesaving practice. 42 percent of these students were affected by helminthic infections.
To address the gap between perception and practice of handwashing with soap, and demonstrate how low-cost and sustainable interventions in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene can bring about positive change for children’s health and development, UNICEF and the Government work in 30 remote schools of Jizzakh, Kashkadarya, Khorezm, Surkhandarya regions and the Republic of Karakalpakstan.
The initiative that is also supported by Ucell telecom operator, helped improve sanitary facilities in these schools and increase the rate of handwashing with soap significantly. Currently, the Government is planning to conduct a survey to measure the positive outcomes of the project, and make recommendations on how this approach could be applied to other schools.
“It is important that while schoolchildren learn how to wash hands with soap at critical times during the day, they are also encouraged to disseminate this knowledge among their peers, caregivers and other community members, beyond the school setting,” – says Khilola Aslanova, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer, UNICEF. “Children we engage with clearly understand that clean hands contribute to their bright futures,” – Khilola Aslanova added.