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Hai Phong, 6 October 2012 – The fifth anniversary of Global Handwashing Day (GHWD) – commemorated each year on 15 October - was celebrated at an opening event in Hai Phong’s Youth Cultural and Sport Palace on Saturday 6 October, as organised jointly by the Women's Union and the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD) with support from UNICEF, the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) of the World Bank, Unilever, and Lien Aid.


Over 100 national and provincial policy makers and leaders from government, mass organisations, and international NGOs together with more than 1,500 children aged 7-10 years and women actively participated in the event and expressed their commitment in promoting handwashing with soap. UNICEF’s newly appointed Goodwill Ambassador, famous actor Xuan Bac, attended the event and facilitated a number of entertainment activities on handwashing with soap for children. Mr. Xuan Bac is also the first Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation (WASH) in Viet Nam appointed by MARD, UNICEF, and Lien Aid in 2010. Later on, Mr. Xuan Bac exchanged his experience on engaging children on health, sanitation and hygiene issues with members of the Women's Union in a regular group meeting of the club "Say ‘No’ to Diseases, Take Action for Hygiene" in Duong Kinh district of Hai Phong city.

Under the slogan “Clean hands save lives”, the driving theme for Global Handwashing Day is children and schools. Children acting as agents of change, take the good hygiene practices learned at school back to their homes and communities. The active participation and involvement of children, along with culturally sensitive community-based interventions aim at ensuring sustained behavioural change. Handwashing with soap - particularly at critical moments, including after using the toilet and before handling food – is a key cost effective and life-saving intervention. Research in several developing countries illustrates that lack of soap is usually not the barrier – with the vast majority of even poor households having soap at home – rather, the problem is that soap is rarely used for handwashing.


In 2008, a research conducted by the World Bank on the economic impact estimates that every year in Viet Nam, there are nearly 7 million of diarrheal cases, 2.4 million cases of scabies, 4 million cases of worm infection, hepatitis A and trachoma, as well as 0.9 million cases of child malnutrition caused by bad sanitation and hygiene. These damages are equivalent to 780 million USD or 1.3% of the GDP per year in Viet Nam.


In addition to celebrating Global Handwashing Day’s fifth anniversary, the event offered an opportunity to celebrate the fifth birthday of millions of children around the world in 2012. Handwashing with soap can help prevent diarrhoea, pneumonia, and other disease that prevent many children from reaching their 5th birthday.


Children suffer disproportionately from diarrheal diseases – with more than 3.5 million children under five dying every year from diarrhoea and pneumonia-related diseases globally. But the simple, cost-effective solution of washing hands with soap after defecation and before meals can reduce the incidence of diarrheal rates among children under five by almost 50 per cent, and respiratory infections by nearly 25 per cent.

“Viet Nam Women’s Union, with its 14 million members, commits to work closely with all families in Viet Nam to promote good and healthy behaviours to improve health for women and children, especially handwashing with soap at critical times”, said Ms. Tran Thanh Binh, Vice-President of the Women’s Union. “Behaviour change communication on handwashing with soap has been integrated in the “Say ‘No’ to Diseases, Take Action for Hygiene” clubs’ activities at all 63 provinces and cities of the country. The Women’s Union will continue to work in partnership with MARD, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other donors and international partners in changing behaviours to help achieving the objectives in the third National Target Programme on Rural Water Supply and Sanitation”.


Since 2008, in Viet Nam, GHWD has come to the agenda for advocacy on hygiene and other sanitation issues by the government of Viet Nam (MOH, MARD, Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), Women’s Union, etc.), international donors and private sector. A numbers of events have been organised around 15 October at national and provincial levels with participation from national policy makers, provincial leaders, members of national and international organisations and communities. Through these events, messages on the health benefits from handwashing with soap have been disseminated through a variety of mass media, and direct communication channels.


“The third National Target Programme on Rural Water Supply and Sanitation identifies information, communication, and education is one of the major solutions that will help to achieve the objectives of the programme during 2012-2015”, said Mr. Vu Van Thang, Vice-Director of the Water Resource Department, MARD. “Under the National Target Programme, handwashing with soap is identified as the key behaviour to be promoted via different communication channels and activities”.


In 2012, the WSP programme under the World Bank, UNICEF, Lien Aid and Unilever is providing technical and financial support to key government counterparts including the MOH, MARD, the Women’s Union and provincial authorities in Hai Phong, Dien Bien, Ninh Thuan, Kon Tum, Dong Thap, and An Giang to implement a communication campaign during the 1st week of October, including a number of advocacy and communication events to promote handwashing with soap at critical times around the country via direct communication and mass media channels. The aim of the campaign is also to ensure that national policy makers and provincial leaders increase support to promote handwashing with soap, water, and sanitation for people living in remote rural areas.    


As part of the campaign, video clips and other communication materials are being aired on main national TV channels, Internet platforms, social media (Youtube and Facebook) and newspapers nationwide. The campaign will help to promote participation of women and children in promoting handwashing with soap. It is estimated thousands women and over 10,000 children aged 7-15 years at primary and secondary schools from five provinces and one municipality will participate in a number of education-entertainment activities on handwashing with soap.



For more information, please contact:


Ms. Sandra Bisin, UN Communication Office; Tel. +84 4 3822 4383 ext 102; Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ms. Nguyen Thuy Ai, IEC and Training Unit, National Centre for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation; +84 4 37761322; Email:

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