Global Handwashing Day, 15 October

15 October, 2021

Extracts and comments from me below.

1. Read online:

'October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.'

'Global handwashing day is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times.

This unprecedented time provides a unique impetus to institutionalize hand hygiene as a fundamental component of health and safety. The learnings from the past year have emphasized the need for collective action to address the historic neglect of hand hygiene investments, policies, and programs once and for all. As we enter a new normal, beyond COVID-19, our future is at hand. This year’s theme, “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together,” calls for coordinated action as we actively work toward universal hand hygiene.'

2. Blog: Global Handwashing Day: a chance to seize political will and fund hand hygiene for all

'During the COVID-19 pandemic, 3 in 10 people worldwide could not wash their hands with soap and water at home. Still today, medical staff in 43% of healthcare facilities cannot wash their hands before providing care. Similarly, 47% of schools in developing countries don’t have handwashing facilities, meaning that 900 million students worldwide have nowhere to wash their hands while at school...'

'Handwashing is also one of the most cheapest ways to improve public health, costing just US$3 per disability-adjusted life year. Investing in programmes that promote handwashing with soap can also bring large economic gains. In India, for example, funding such programmes could see a $5.6 billion net return...'

'Address multiple behaviours through the same programme to reduce the spread of infections. Diseases can be transmitted in many ways, so addressing only one behaviour will not stem the spread. To respond to COVID-19, for example, we promoted several hygiene behaviours such as washing hands with soap, wearing a mask in public places and maintaining physical distance. But equally, don’t ask people to do too much, too soon. Instead, focus on three key behaviour changes to achieve lasting change...'

3. Comments (Neil):

3.1 We learned recently on HIFA that one of the few positives about COVID-19 was that more people are handwashing. One contributor suggested this may have reduced newborn infections. Are people continuing to wash their hands regularly in your country or have they become more lax again?

3.2 Access to water and soap is a huge issue as shown above. The author says '43% of healthcare facilities cannot wash their hands before providing care'. Can someone provide more detail about this? Is this figure actually referring to the availability of running water, or the ability to wash hands (these are two different things)?

3.3 There is a compelling economic case for policymakers to invest more in handwashing facilities, and yet it seems they are not doing so. Why the disconnect?

3.4 The emphasis is on behaviour change, and yet understanding why is critical. What is the leval of access to basic information and knowledge among the public with regards to the benefits of handwashing in your country?

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,