Global Handwashing Day 2012

WaterAid today welcomes Global Handwashing Day, which is being marked by over 200 million people in over 100 countries around the world.


15 Oct 2012 | International

Barbara Frost, WaterAid Chief Executive, says: "Washing your hands is one of the most important ways you can reduce the chance of getting ill."

According to the World Health Organisation providing soap and improving hygiene practices can cut cases of diarrhoea by up to 53%.

"In the developing world around 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from this preventable disease. Global Handwashing Day is a great time for us all to focus on this to help make the world a happier and healthier place."

Here are our top ten facts about handwashing and promoting good hygiene:

  1. Providing soap and hygiene promotion can reduce cases of diarrhoea by up to 53%. (Luby, et al. 2005) 
  2. Hygiene promotion is one of the most cost effective health intervention according to the World Bank. (Saving Lives, WaterAid, 2012)
  3. The simple act of washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrhoeal disease by one-third. (WHO/UNICEF/WSSCC Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report)
  4. Handwashing in institutions such as primary schools reduces the incidence of diarrhoea by an average of 30%. (Ejemot-Nwadiaro et al, 2009)
  5. Improved water quality reduces childhood diarrhoea by 15-20% BUT better hygiene through handwashing and safe food handling reduces it by 35% AND safe disposal of children's faeces leads to a reduction of nearly 40%. (Hygiene Promotion, Brian Appleton and Christine Sijbesma, 2005)
  6. When hygiene promotion is combined with access to improved water supply and sanitation, the estimated cost is only US$ 3 per household per year for each averted case of diarrhoea in children under five. (Hygiene Promotion, Brian Appleton and Christine Sijbesma, 2005)
  7. Following the introduction of the Guatemalan Handwashing Initiative in 1998, there were 322,000 fewer cases of diarrhoea each year amongst the 1.5 million children under 5 nationwide in the country's lowest income groups. (The Story of a Successful Public-Private Partnership in Central America, Saadé et al, 2001)
  8. Research suggests that handwashing is an important preventive measure in the incidence of acute respiratory infections, the number one killer of children under five. (See for instance the study of Ryan et al, published in 2001)
  9. WHO estimates that approximately 6 million cases of blindness due to trachoma and 11 million cases of trachoma infection occur yearly. Evidence from health research shows that a lower incidence of trachoma is associated with fewer flies sitting on eyes and more frequent washing of children's hands and faces, along with improved excreta disposal and water supply. (Emerson et al, 2000)
  10. Cost of poor hygiene: Peru's 1991 cholera epidemic is estimated to have cost the national economy as much as US$1 billion in health costs, tourism and production losses. In India, outbreaks of plague in 1994 meant a loss of US$2 billion. (Appleton and van Wijk, 2003)