Experts From The Global Hygiene Council (GHC) Call For Investment In Hand Hygiene To Save Lives

On Global Handwashing Day, 15 October 2022, the GHC is calling for investment in handwashing education and resources to achieve universal hand hygiene, prevent disease and save lives.

Handwashing with soap is one of the most important steps for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. It is substantially less expensive than other public health interventions and has many socio-economic benefits beyond the reduction of diseases such as increased productivity and a reduction in healthcare costs.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts were made to improve hygiene habits but, according to the World Health Organization, we need to quadruple current progress to achieve the hygiene targets that are outlined by the United Nations in the Sustainable Development Goals. If current trends persist, 1.9 billion people will still be without basic handwashing facilities at home by 2030, highlighting the need for increased investment in handwashing programmes across the globe.

When COVID-19 emerged, access to handwashing facilities, education and funding fell short: 30% of the global population didn’t have handwashing facilities with soap and water; and almost half of healthcare facilities (43%) lacked basic hand hygiene facilities at points of care. The GHC aligns with the theme of Global Handwashing Day 2022, which is ‘Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene’, and calls for health authorities to prioritise hand hygiene to help prevent infections.

Research estimates that national handwashing programmes could yield fruitful economic returns, doubling return on investment, with some nations drastically surpassing that. One study highlights that a national handwashing programme in India could yield a 92-fold return on investment.

Professor emerita Elizabeth Scott PhD, chair of the Global Hygiene Council comments:  

“The GHC is championing hygiene, including handwashing, as a leading way to prevent infections. It is unconscionable that, in the 21st century, billions of people around the world are still without access to basic handwashing with soap and water.

A massive collaborative effort is required across all levels of society, including increased investment in hygiene infrastructure by governments. We need to get back to basics and raise the profile of hand hygiene, including washing with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitiser when access to soap and clean water isn’t available, to ensure this remains a frontline infection prevention method in healthcare and community settings.”

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