Guineans mobilize for water, sanitation, hygiene and handwashing

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CONAKRY, Guinea, 30 October 2008 - Global Handwashing Day was celebrated on 28 October in Guinea with handwashing ceremonies in schools across the country.

The day was marked worldwide on 15 October, but was shifted here due to the Guinean school calendar.

In the capital city, Conakry, a handwashing event attracted government officials, UN and UNICEF representatives, leaders of local non-governmental organizations, international partners from Burkina Faso and Belgium, and chiefs from different quarters of the capital.

Hundreds of children also attended the event. They listened attentively to speeches that stressed the importance of proper handwashing with soap at crucial times. Plays and shows depicted the importance of hygiene and sanitation in daily life. At the end of the ceremony, everybody - officials included - got into the spirit of the day by washing their hands with soap and water.

Dialogue on water, hygiene and sanitation

In support of the International Year of Sanitation - which Global Handwashing Day is a part of - the Guinean Government and UNICEF, in collaboration with local and international NGOs, organized Guinea's first national dialogue on water, sanitation and hygiene. Seven ministers were present at its launch.

The five-day dialogue featured demonstrations of low-cost water and sanitation technology, as well as conferences on avoiding diarrhoeal diseases at the community level. Various presentations highlighted the successes of past projects and the potential benefits of ongoing and future initiatives.

The media played a large role as well, generating numerous broadcasts and print articles about water, sanitation and hygiene.

Current hygiene indicators

Guinea is located in a region of west Africa that is considered water-rich. But despite the country's abundance of rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs, safe water is still a luxury for much of the population.

Only about half of all Guineans have access to improved water sources, and just 18 per cent have access to proper sanitation facilities. According to national figures, only about 18 per cent of the population wash their hands with soap before cooking, 38 per cent before eating and 48 per cent after going to the toilet.

Fatoumata Thiam Diall provided the reporting for this story.