Globally, 4 out of 5 people do not wash hands after using the bathroom

11 October 2018
Employees and companies, Corporate engagement, Water, Toilets, Hygiene
Thumbnail WaterAid/ Jordi Ruiz Cirera


October 11, 2018—Washing hands with soap and water reduces cases of diarrhea by almost 50 percent - yet on average around the world only 19 percent of people wash hands with soap after defecation. This Global Handwashing Day (October 15), WaterAid urges governments worldwide to prioritize handwashing promotion, alongside water and sanitation, to save lives.

The simple act of washing hands can save lives. Handwashing with soap helps keep food safe, prevents diseases and helps children grow up strong and healthy. In turn, it contributes to child survival, good nutrition, school attendance and greater productivity. 

Clean hands help students stay in school, and give them the health and nutrition they need to focus on learning. Handwashing with soap has been found to cut school sick days in half.

Yet, only one in five people globally wash their hands after going to the toilet. 

An estimated 289,000 children under five die each year of diarrheal diseases directly caused by dirty water, poor sanitation and the inability to wash hands with soap. Another 151 million children around the world have had their growth and development stunted by undernutrition, in which chronic infection and intestinal worms are a major factor.

This winter, WaterAid is launching Let Kids Learn, a campaign to bring water, sanitation and hygiene to 26 schools in Colombia and Nicaragua.

Handwashing: Fast facts

  • Hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs. 
  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) people globally wash their hands with soap after defecating
  • 1 in 3 primary schools worldwide does not have handwashing facilities
  • 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.
  • Handwashing with soap reduces the risk of diarrheal diseases by 42-47% 
  • Lack of access to sanitation and poor hygiene contribute to approximately 88% of childhood deaths caused by diarrheal diseases.

For more information, contact Emily Haile, Senior Media and Communications Manager at [email protected] or 212-683-0430.