Handwashing Heroes – Fighting Disease through Children’s Storybooks

6 February 2017

UNICEF Pacific Handwashing Preventing Disease

Diarrhoea is a leading killer of children, accounting for 9 per cent of all deaths among children under age 5 worldwide in 2015. This translates to over 1,400 young children dying each day, or about 526,000 children a year, despite the availability of simple and effective treatments,[1] which is often due to a lack of basic sanitation and poor hygienic practices. Children in the Pacific are no exception, including countries like the Solomon Islands. 

To combat these preventable deaths, the UNICEF Pacific office chose to implement an integrated educational communication for development (C4D) campaign in the Solomon Islands as a pilot, stressing the importance of consistent personal hygiene and, specifically, handwashing. The handwashing strategy and ensuing campaign was developed by the Ministry of Health in Solomon Islands with support from UNICEF and in collaboration with many other partners. In addition to a comprehensive set of child-centred resources, UNICEF Pacific office approached QUO to conceptualise stories that would more closely resonate with children in the Solomon Islands. We then developed a cast of characters and illustrated the series of storybooks to be fun, engaging and relevant to the Solomon Islands context. The books were successfully tested with children’s focus groups and are a project for which we take particular pride. 

UNICEF Pacific Handwashing Books 

This is the first time that a series of storybooks such as these will be piloted in selected primary schools across the Solomon Islands. The storybooks target two age groups: children 6 to 9 years of age and children 10 years of age and older. Two handwashing heroes, Soap and Water, follow the colourful cast of human characters through country-specific situations and promote the campaign’s “Stay Healthy” message. Throughout the narrative, our heroes defeat evil germs, emphasising that water alone is not enough to clean hands and explaining where the characters have gone wrong, as well as the correct way of washing.

If the pilot storybooks are well received, the hope is that other Pacific Island countries will consider developing their own country-specific versions.

[1] https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-health/diarrhoeal-disease/

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