Vientiane, 15 October 2018 – Increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap is an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. Therefore, the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports has celebrated the Global Handwashing Day 2018 at Thadeua Primary School in Hadxayfong district of Vientiane Capital. The celebration was opened by the District Governor of Hadxayfong, Khanthong Keodouangsy who remarked on the importance of handwashing, stating that “if children are healthy and study in a healthy environment, they will perform better in school and share the knowledge with their families.”
The theme for Global Handwashing Day 2018 is “Clean Hands – A recipe for health,” emphasizing the links between handwashing and food. Handwashing is an important part of keeping food safe, preventing diseases, and helping children grow strong. Diarrhoea limits the body’s ability to absorb nutrition from food and is still a major cause of death in many countries.
The celebration was organized by representatives of the Ministry of Education and Sports from national, provincial and district level, in close cooperation with the Lao Ministry of Health, and in partnership with the German program Fit for School, implemented by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and SEAMEO INNOTECH. Similar events will follow on October 16 in Naxone Primary School in Pakngeum district, and on October 17 in Wat Mixay Primary School in Chanthaboury district.
The Fit for School program focuses on measures that are simple, scalable, sustainable, and integrated into the education system. The program supports children in acquiring healthy habits and promoting sustainable behaviour change through the implementation of daily routines, such as daily group handwashing with soap. Alexander Winkscha, Regional Coordinator of the Fit for School program, emphasized during his opening address that “this fantastic success of over 2000 schools improving their daily hygiene practices is thanks to the school principals, teachers, representatives of the Ministries of Education and Health, and last but not least, because of the many people of Lao PDR, those Lao citizens who as members of their local communities have supported their schools and their children.”
In Lao PDR, the Ministry of Education and Sports is implementing the Fit for School program since 2011 and the driving force behind the successful scaling up of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools across the country. As of October 2018, already 2,200 schools across all provinces implement daily group handwashing and toothbrushing as part of the Fit for School program.