Soap and water is deadly serious | Mission East

Soap and water is deadly serious


On 15 October, global handwashing day was celebrated at Mission East’s centre for displaced children in northern Iraq.
"Raise a hand for hygiene!" Children were thrilled to play with the colourful finger paints.

Infectious diseases can cost the lives of people who have fled from war. At the centres established by Mission East in northern Iraq, children who have fled from war learn how to keep infection away with soap and water.

Red, blue and green finger paints are spread over plates all around the floor, and next to them are large, white sheets of paper ready to be decorated. After a while the paper sheets are littered with hand prints, and the many children in the room raise their coloured hands in excitement. 

Serious matters lies behind laughter

We are in one of the three centres in northern Iraq run by Mission East and its local partner Humanity. Here, children from displaced families forget the horrors of war through fun activities in a safe environment. The children are celebrating the global handwashing day on October 15, and although there is laughter and fun, deadly serious issues are behind the activities.

Risk of spreading infections

In Iraq, 3.2 million people are internally displaced and they live in precarious conditions. When so many people suddenly have to flee and are forced to live in tents and unfinished buildings without adequate sanitation, infectious diseases have favourable conditions to spread in. In Iraq, there has already been one serious outbreak of cholera, which can cost a person’s life within 24 hours.

Handwashing is vital

At the centres in northern Iraq, the children are therefore trained in health and hygiene. They learn how to avoid infection through washing hands and healthy eating, and they get useful knowledge about sanitation and first aid.

"By emphasizing how important it is to wash hands, we help children to stay healthy and alive during this difficult period of their lives," says Kendrah Jespersen, who is responsible for coordinating Mission East's efforts in northern Iraq.

Mission East has so far established three children’s centres in northern Iraq. By supporting the work, you ensure that more children learn how to take care of themselves during their period of displacement.

Global fight against bacteria

  • The global handwashing day is celebrated every year on October 15 on the initiative of a group of different companies, universities, charity organisations, and governments.
  • Every year the day has a theme. In 2015 the theme is “Raise a hand for hygiene.”
  • Handwashing is an easy, effective and inexpensive method to prevent the spread of diseases in periods of crisis.

Read more about the work of www.globalhandwashing.org.

A safe upbringing

This is what the children at the centres are learning:

  • Health Topics: Nutritious diet, basic first aid, hygiene, sanitation and how to prevent illness.
  • School skills: Teaching numbers and letters and preparing children for entry or re-entry to school.
  • Life Skills: Emotional and social skills such as dealing with difficult emotions and strengthening confidence and ability to cooperate and make new friends.