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Global Handwashing Day - 2021
14 Oct 2021

GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY

15TH OCTOBER 2021

Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is a global advocacy day, celebrated on the 15th of October every year, dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of hand hygiene, and bringing about sustainable and long-term uptake of Handwashing with Soap (HWWS). HWWS is seen to drive various positive health outcomes among communities, and the theme for 2021’s GHD, “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together”, aims to mobilize this potential, and bring about an international focus on hand hygiene as a fundamental component of public health and safety. 

Aligned to the global strategy  of  Hand Hygiene for All (HH4A) launched in 2020, GHD 2021 aims at focusing on sustaining momentum for HHWS and the theme is a call for action to leverage experiences of COVID-19 pandemic in order to accelerate investments in hand hygiene. HH4A is a global strategy promoted by UNICEF and WHO to universalize HWWS, and to increase country level focus on HWWS by facilitating development and institutionalization of HWWS through country level roadmaps.  HH4A entails a collective approach to achieving universal hand hygiene and stopping the spread of life-threatening diseases, such as COVID-19, while making hand hygiene accessible and habitual across communities. This approach aims to increase uptake of improved hand hygiene across settings, institutionalizing HWWS in health care facilities, schools and childcare centers, workplaces, transport hubs, households, places of worship and other institutions. HH4All is characterized by collective action and collaboration between international organizations, national and local governments, civil society, the private sector and academic partners, to drive improved hand hygiene. It seeks to establish a culture of hand hygiene, making HWWS a social norm, and creating an enabling environment for HWWS interventions and programming. 

Need for improved hand hygiene

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how critical the practice of handwashing can be in preventing the transmission of life-threatening diseases. Evidence shows that improved hand hygiene can eliminate the presence of several key disease-causing pathogens, and significantly improve sanitation and health outcomes among communities. Improved health outcomes are seen to be particularly substantial among children, as hand washing with soap is known to prevent two clinical syndromes that are responsible for the largest number of childhood deaths globally: diarrhoea and acute respiratory illnesses.

Globally, about 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. In India, 13-14% of the country’s 2.3 million annual deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to diarrheal diseases. As of 2018, only 36% of Indians practice handwashing before meals, with 25% in rural contexts and 56% in urban contexts. In the COVID-19 context, only 61% of respondents to a WaterAid study conducted in India, reported practicing hand washing after returning home from outside, and only 34% do so after sneezing or coughing. 

 Benefits of hand hygiene

  • Handwashing with soap can reduce diarrhoea incidence by 30%, and respiratory infections, specifically among children below the age of 5, by 20%. 
  • Practicing correct handwashing and building adequate hygiene infrastructure in schools could save one-third of children in India from dying of diarrheal disease, respiratory infections and other transmissible diseases. 
  • In the COVID-19 context, one study found that that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%, while another found that handwashing before returning from outdoors and touching your face may reduce the chance of infection by 2-30%. 
  • It has been estimated that an effective and robust national handwashing program in India could lead to an annual gain of US $ 5.6 billion in GDP, a 92-fold return on investment.

 Global Handwashing Day 2021

2021’s Global Handwashing Day, with the themeOur Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together” aims to build on the learnings and efforts from GHD 2020 and the COVID-19 epidemic, to further strengthen collective action to universalize hand hygiene. Core to transitioning to the ‘new normal’ beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, is ensuring that all of society move forward together, in terms of access to HWWS knowledge and facilities. GHD 2021 calls for collaboration between governments, donors, the private sector, healthcare and educational institutions, academic bodies and researchers, and public health advocates to come together to drive policy and behavior change for improved hand hygiene uptake. 

How to Wash Hands

How to wash your hands - UNICEF

Key Wash Behaviors During COVID-19

How to Keep Your Hands Clean and Stay Healthy