Don’t under-estimate the power of handwashing with soap, says WaterAid. It has the power to reduce pressure on healthcare systems, prevent diseases including future pandemics, eliminate costs and save lives across the world.
Handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective ways for people – whether at home, at work, in school or healthcare facilities– to keep themselves and their loved ones safe by preventing and controlling infectious epidemics, diseases and superbugs.
How does handwashing save lives and money?
- Handwashing with soap can reduce the risk of diarrheal disease among children under 5 years old by 30%.
- with every $1 spent on hygiene, saving $15 on healthcare;
- delivering hand hygiene at home for everyone everywhere could generate a net benefit of $45bn per year;
Investing in safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene, including delivering hygiene plans, can generate huge economic savings – providing up to 21 times more value than it costs.
What do the statistics show?
- Currently, almost 2 billion people in the world – one in four – lack basic hygiene facilities at home – that’s a handwashing facility with both soap and water;[v]
- 653 million people in the world don’t have a place to wash their hands at home;
- Only half of healthcare facilities globally have a place for handwashing either near or in the toilets or where care is provided;
- Globally, 43% of schools do not have soap and water for handwashing and 480 million children worldwide go to schools that have no handwashing facilities, or if they do, they aren’t functioning properly
- Worldwide, 384,000 diarrhoea deaths are caused annually by inadequate hand hygiene; most are in Africa and South-East Asia;
- Interventions promoting handwashing with soap reduce acute respiratory infections by 17%.
What’s the solution?
Clean water gives hope and clean hands are within reach. But it is only with collaboration and commitment that these goals can be met.
As the world celebrates Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid is calling on donors and governments to commit the necessary finance and steps to reach our goal for everyone, everywhere to have soap and water for handwashing at home. This includes:
- putting in place national hand hygiene strategies;
- increasing funding for hand hygiene programmes;
- designing and implementing effective hand hygiene behaviour change programming at scale and;
- tracking hygiene spending across sectors.
For this to be achieved by 2030 – the year by which world leaders have promised to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene for all – current rates of progress will need to triple.
Ensuring hygiene is integral to any development agenda, including efforts to respond to COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics – will save lives across the world by making sure handwashing becomes part of daily life for everyone.
Dr Om Prasad Gautam, Senior Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Manager at WaterAid, said:
“Without clean hands, lives across the world are at stake and that is why we must invest now in handwashing globally.
“We have seen how interconnected the world is when it comes to the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. Diseases and viruses are spreading at high-speed, with no consideration for borders.
“As the world celebrates Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid is calling on donors and governments to commit the necessary finance so people at home and abroad can stay healthy and keep working, protect local health services and communities can thrive.”