The statistics are grim. Over 1.5 million children under five die each year as a result of diarrhoea. It is the second most common cause of child deaths worldwide. The ‘war on diarrhoea’ has a very simple and inexpensive solution: handwashing.
To create mass awareness among children about the importance of handwashing with soap, Madhya Pradesh government on October 15,2014 tried to beat the Guinness World Record for most people washing their hands in multiple locations. To do so, the Madhya Pradesh’s Department of Panchayat and Rural Development (PRD) mobilised an incredible 10 million school children across the state to wash their hands simultaneously on a single day, 2 million of whom would be documented for the record attempt.
The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan, launched the challenge at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Habibia, Bhopal, joined by many local and government dignitaries. The Chief Minister and his ministerial colleagues emphasised the importance of cleanliness and good hygiene practices such as handwashing.
After a rigorous verification process – including visiting a certain number of schools in each district and meeting students, teachers and witnesses – the auditors finally concluded how many participants had successfully adhered to Guinness World Record requirements. A total of 1,276,425 children had simultaneously washed their hands in 13,196 locations across 51 districts of Madhya Pradesh. This easily surpassed the previous record of 740,870, achieved in an event organised by the Pan American Health Organization at multiple venues in Argentina, Mexico and Peru on 14 October 2011.
On 1 July 2015, Guinness World Records officially declared that Madhya Pradesh had set a new world record for the most number of people washing hands in multiple locations.