Hand washing is important to protect against viruses and bacteria, but it has become more important in light of the spread of the Corona pandemic, as experts advise the need to wash hands frequently to protect against the virus.
For its part, the World Health Organization said that investing one dollar per person per year in hand hygiene could save hundreds of thousands of lives, explaining that all families living in 46 of the least developed countries in the world could have handwashing facilities by 2030. If the world invested less than US$1 per person per year in hand hygiene, emphasizing that this would provide basic protection from disease, prevent future outbreaks, and prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths.
In a statement, the organization said that hand hygiene, one of the first lines of defense against the spread of infectious diseases, is still out of reach for billions of people who still lack hand hygiene facilities at home, school or health care facilities.
The World Hand Hygiene Report 2021 released by the World Health Organization and UNICEF highlights that the annual cost to governments to encourage handwashing with soap at home amounts to only 2.5% of average government health spending in these countries – making it a high investment. Cost-effective, providing huge health benefits at relatively little cost.
The report compiles scattered datasets on access to hand hygiene and key national policies and investments to highlight lagging progress, call on Member States and supporting agencies to act, and provide many inspiring examples of change..
Washing hands protects against diseases and viruses
Globally, 3 in 10 people, or 2.3 billion people, lacked a home-based handwashing facility, 818 million children lacked a handwashing facility with soap and water at school in 2020, and 1 in 3 health workers lacked a facility Health care to hand hygiene facilities at the points where they provide care – putting them all at risk of preventable disease Even at best, nearly two billion people depend on health care facilities that do not even have basic water services.
“Intensifying action to ensure universal access to hand hygiene facilities is one clear example of integration in emerging from a pandemic, preparing for the next pandemic, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and is certainly a requirement for coverage,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department for Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO. Universal Health Achieving the goal of universal access to hand hygiene will require a fundamental change in equipment, the current average pace of progress must be quadrupled to ensure that all homes in the world have such access.
The same would apply to universal access to hand hygiene services in schools by 2030, which would also require at least a 4-fold increase in the current average rate of progress, with greater acceleration needed in some areas, she said..
If current rates of progress continue, the world will have reached only 78 percent coverage of basic hygiene services by 2030, leaving 1.9 billion people without facilities to wash their hands at home, the organization said, explaining that hand hygiene is an “no regrets” investment. “Our estimates show that for every dollar invested, countries can save $15, but rates of access to hand hygiene facilities are still very low.
“Few countries have made significant efforts to address the need for hand hygiene in public spaces, for example, as a temporary public health intervention in times of crisis,” said Bruce Gordon, head of the WHO’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Unit.
To accelerate progress, governments must prioritize the most important key actions:
1. Good governance through leadership, effective coordination and organization, including establishing clear policies on handwashing services and behaviors in all settings.
Smart public finance to ensure maximum impact and stimulate investments from households and the private sector.
2. Assess existing capacities with regard to hand hygiene policies and strategies, identify gaps and develop capacity building strategies based on rigorous application of best practices.
3. Governments and supporting agencies should encourage innovation, particularly by the private sector, to spread hand hygiene everywhere.