Importance of handwashing

October 15 marks Global Handwashing Day. It is 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.

Importance of washing hands is well established. It was considered pivotal during Covid-19 pandemic to keep at bay even the deadliest virus from spreading.

According to the United Nations, hand hygiene saves millions of lives every year when performed at the right moments during health care delivery. It is also a smart investment that offers exceptional return for each dollar invested. Clean care is a sign of respect to those who seek care, and it protects health and other workers who provide that care.

Achieving universal hand hygiene requires a strong enabling environment, access to adequate and affordable hand hygiene facilities, and evidence-based behavior change programming.

The first Global Handwashing Day was held in 2008, when over 120 million children around the world reportedly washed their hands with soap in more than 70 countries and since then, community and national leaders have used Global Handwashing Day to spread the word about handwashing, build sinks and tippy taps and demonstrate the simplicity and value of clean hands. It is endorsed by governments, schools, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies, individuals and more.

The Global Handwashing Day emphasises that clean hands save lives and promotes the adoption of this simple yet impactful habit for better public health since the ultimate goal is to ensure that handwashing with soap becomes a habit for everyone, everywhere. The day promotes the practice of regular handwashing with soap as a simple yet effective way to prevent the transmission of germs and reduce the risk of illness such as diarrhea, respiratory infections and cholera, which are responsible for a significant number of deaths, especially among children in developing countries.

The 2023 Global Handwashing Day theme is “Clean hands are within reach” and serves as a platform for educating people, particularly children, about the importance of hand hygiene along with how to wash their hands properly.

It is important to note that behavior change takes time. Not only do people need to be motivated initially to take up a healthy behavior, motivation must be sustained for the maintenance of this behavior.  There is need to accelerate action to prevent infections and antimicrobial resistance in health care. There is need for building culture of safety and quality in which hand hygiene improvement is given high priority.

Related Articles