FIRST Lady Esther Lungu says hand washing with soap could prevent about one out of every three episodes of diarrhoea illness and one out of six episodes of respiratory infections like pneumonia . Speaking when she officiated at a Global Hand Washing Day at Northmead Primary school in Lusaka yesterday, Ms Lungu said the day is an opportunity to design, test and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. Ms Lungu said this simple activity could save more lives than any vaccine or medical intervention, preventing the spread of infection and keeping children in school. She observed that the challenge was to transform hand washing with soap from an abstract good idea to an automatic behaviour carried out in homes, schools, work places and communities and to raise awareness about the benefits of hand washing with soap. Ms Lungu noted that the 2016 hand washing day theme ”Make hand washing a habit” must be practiced consistently at key times such as after using the toilet or before contact with food, hence habits must be developed over time. “This theme emphasises the importance of hand washing as a ritual behaviour for long-term sustainability . Habit formation is currently a hot topic in behaviour change and the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector. This theme taps into that interest and is also a gateway to discussing what the sector knows about how habits are formed,” she said. Ms Lungu said children who so often were energetic, enthusiastic and open to new ideas, could act as agents of change by taking the hand washing lessons learned at school back into their homes and communities, stating that the day aimed at motivating children to embrace and share proper hand washing practices and to take on the role of hand washing ambassadors by using dettol soap as recommendable. She, however, donated forty-four (44) sports kits and two balls and adopted the administration block which she said she had full responsibilities. And Triple Eight executive director Sarika Modi commended the First Lady for her commitment in the fight against maternal mortality through her efforts in promoting hand washing and good hygiene. Ms Modi said Ms Lungu’s attendance at the Hand Washing Day is a clear indication of her commitment to saving the lives of children who die from poor hygiene. She said mothers played a crucial role in inculcating good health habits among children such as hand washing. Ms Modi said hand washing had the potential to save the lives of millions of children who die worldwide from diarrhoea diseases. And Ministry of Health director of mother and child health Caroline Phiri said the Government had prioritised hand washing as an important tool of disease prevention. Dr. Phiri said hand washing had the potential to protect children against diarrhoea up to about 88 percent. She said the ministry would embrace hand washing because it protected children from diarrhoea, which is one of the five killer diseases among children in Zambia. Meanwhile, a Grade four pupil Emmy Nyoni said hygiene was a critical exercise in reducing the spread of illness among learners at school . She said poor hygiene impacted on learners’ attendance rate at school, but also failing illness with diarrhoea could be fatal if not well managed. Two former first ladies Dr. Maureen Mwanawasa and Vera Chiluba attended the function and pledged to maintain their classrooms blocks which have been named after them.