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School Facilities, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Peru, Mexico, and Argentina Lead the Region of the Americas to Break the Guinness Record on Hand Washing

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Representatives from Guinness certified that on 14 October 2011, 740,870 people washed their hands simultaneously in different locations in the Americas.

Thanks to the coordination of the health and education authorities in each country, in Peru 604,246 people washed their hands, in Mexico 134,790, and in Argentina 1,834. The three countries mobilized thousands of schools to participate in this activity and stressed the importance of handwashing in schools. That is how the Region of the Americas broke the record set in 2009 in Bangladesh, when 52,970 people all washed their hands at the same time.

PAHO/WHO will award certificates to Peru, Mexico, and Argentina in early 2012 in recognition of the efforts of the various government organizations and agencies that supported the event, as well as the work of the schools and schoolchildren who answered the call.

In order to beat the Guinness World Record for the most people simultaneously washing their hands in different locations, PAHO/WHO requested the collaboration of all the countries in the Region and registered the event with Guinness. Peru, Mexico and Argentina answered the call, coordinating schools countrywide and, following Guinness protocols, registered with documentation and witnesses the time when the students washed their hands.

The Guinness adjudicators reviewed all the documentation on 19 December 2011, having traveled to the countries to verify that the previous record had been broken.

Since 2008, PAHO/WHO has been collaborating with the countries of the Region to set this record on the Global Handwashing Day by mobilizing schools to call attention to the programs that the countries carry out during the year to promote hygiene, handwashing, and sanitation.

Washing one’s hands with soap and water is one of the most economical and effective measures for preventing infectious diseases, which cause some 3.5 million deaths in children under 5, mainly from diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections. According to the data from the Global School-based Health Survey (GSHS), which monitors an extensive group of risky behaviors among schoolchildren in the countries of the Region, over 15% of schoolchildren in some countries respond that they had never or only rarely washed their hands before eating in the past 30 days. For the next celebration of Global Handwashing Day in 2012, PAHO/WHO will again call on the countries of the Americas to reach out to millions of people and break the record set this year.

The new campaign for the Global Handwashing Day will emphasize that at least 20 seconds should be devoted to washing hands with soap and water to remove germs. In addition, aspects of the technique for washing all parts of the hand will be stressed: rubbing the hands together, palm to palm; washing the back of the hand and the spaces between fingers; washing the back of the fingers, including the nails; and also rubbing both thumbs and wrists.