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Handwashing could save lives

Switzerland is backing an international campaign to promote the washing of hands with soap and water that could save over a million lives a year.

The United Nations has declared Wednesday to be the first international hand-washing day, as part of the current International Year of Sanitation. It says washing hands with soap and water is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections, which together are responsible for the majority of all child deaths.

The campaign, supported by the Swiss Health Office and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, aims to ingrain the habit of washing hands before eating and after using the toilet.

Swiss organizations and institutions are being asked to help finance handwashing campaigns in developing countries, particularly in Ghana, Nepal, Peru and Senegal, and to support the global sanitation fund launched by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council whose headquarters are in Geneva.