FERGHANA VALLEY, Uzbekistan (June 14, 2012) — Some 900,000 children between ages 6 and 11 received deworming tablets during Hygiene Promotion and Deworming Week, an event held in Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan provinces of the eastern Ferghana Valley.
Health promotion activities reached 3,000 schools, where children relearned how to properly wash their hands with soap and water. These activities emphasized the link between proper handwashing and the prevention of worms and other diseases.
The highlight of the handwashing campaign was ‘Masqaraboz Tozavoy’, or Mr. Clean, a clown who came to Secondary School Number Two in Oltiarik District, Ferghana Province. He entertained the children with his pranks but also engaged them in a collective handwashing activity. Together, they sang and scrubbed their hands to the refrain ‘Maaza, maaza, Kandai soza’, which is Uzbek for ‘What fun, what fun, to wash hands clean’.
Masqaraboz Tozayoy told his fans that they could watch him on television singing the same song, and that they would also find him on posters in their schools. He asked them to take his hygiene messages home to their families, friends and neighbors. “I would like you to be handwashing heroes in your school and at home,” he told them.
His handwashing game had an impact. “We should wash our hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after touching pets, farm animals and after playing,” said 6-year-old Dilshod Abdurakhiov, explaining what he had learned during the event.
It was the second phase of the campaign that was initiated by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Education, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF last November, focusing on protecting children in the Ferghana Valley from worms.
At that time, children received a dose of mebendazole, one of the most effective deworming medicines. “As our Uzbek saying goes ‘in a healthy body lives a healthy mind’. This campaign will be very useful for both school children and teachers,” said school director Mukhabbatkhon Sobirova.
A 2011 study jointly conducted by UNICEF and WHO in the Ferghana valley revealed that up to 75%of children living in the region had worms. UNICEF advocated with the national health and education authorities to take action against worm infestation, which can seriously threaten the growth and development of children, causing micronutrient deficiencies and impairing children’s cognitive capacity and learning abilities. The Ministry of Health took the immediate step of organizing the Hygiene Promotion and Deworming Campaign, with UNICEF assistance, and jointly designed a longer-term water, sanitation and hygiene promotion strategy for sustainable results in health and hygiene.
“We hope that this campaign will not last just for a week. We would like proper handwashing to turn into a habit. It is also important to ensure that schools have water and make soap available for children to wash their hands. That’s why we call upon regional- and district-level authorities and other stakeholders to make all three elements of clean water, sanitation and handwashing a priority for long-term, positive outcomes for Uzbekistan’s children,” said Savita Varde-Naqvi, UNICEF Chief of Communication for Development.
UNICEF’s support of the week-long intensive campaign included procurement of 1,000,000 mebendazole tablets as well as hygiene promotion materials for schools. TV and radio public service announcements were broadcast by local TV and radio stations to promote proper handwashing.
“I am proud to be part of this noble effort and very much like the entertainment-education approach for promoting good hygiene practices among children,” said Masqaraboz Tozavoy. “My job has always been to make people happy. But now I can make children happy and healthy by inspiring them to wash hands with soap, something we all take for granted, but do not always practice.”