The importance of handwashing was promoted across Oceania over the past month, with a range of awareness campaigns and festivals held as part of celebrations around Global Handwashing Day. 

Since the October 15 date marking the event, Oceania Football Confederation Member Associations Samoa, Tonga and the Solomon Islands have all held festivals with the theme of encouraging good hand sanitation.  

The efforts reinforce OFC’s commitment to ensuring education around the importance of good hygiene is integrated throughout football and that healthy behaviours are encouraged at all levels of participation. 

In Tonga the Just Play programme ran festivals in eight primary schools, delivering key messages around sanitation and encouraging children to take that information back home with them.  

Over 100 children attended a festival held at Lepi School in Isabel Province in the Solomon Islands, while last weekend in Tuanaimato, Samoa 150 children from two local primary schools attended a festival which saw small-sided games organised alongside handwashing activities.  

Tonga Football Association Head of Social Responsibility Palu Uhatahi-Tuamoheloa thanked the partners who helped make the important work possible.  

“I believe that if we are to see change in this area then we need to make it a habit, which is a message delivered in the festivals,” Uhatahi-Tuamoheloa aid.  

“We appreciate the support from the New Zealand Government, Australia Government, the UEFA Foundation for Children and the Oceania Football Confederation.  

“That ongoing support allows us to reach out to children in Tonga and enhance their lives.” 

Statistics show that in the Pacific water and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death in children under five, while one third of children in the region don’t have access to good sanitation.   

The importance of regular and correct handwashing with soap has been further reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, given the practice can reduce the likelihood of infection by 36.3 percent. 

Last year the Just Play programme in Fiji delivered a health and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) tour which reached over 5,000 children, with another WASH festival tour planned in the country from November 19.