What about a handwashing emoji??!

Handwashing is a potential lifesaver – we need an emoji!

Handwashing saves lives. Discussions around handwashing have recently sky rocketed due to the Coronavirus but a critical gap has been noted in efforts to communicate about the virus and stop the spread, namely that no handwashing emoji exists.

Emoji has become a key part of our language. It is how friends communicate via chat and how businesses communicate with their customers. And the standardization of emoji across chat programs and operating systems has created a shared visual communication which works across languages and cultures.

handwashing emoji mockup
What a handwashing emoji might look like, by www.lemiwashmyhands.org

Why handwashing is important?

Handwashing seems simple but it matters: from birth, handwashing with soap can be the difference between life and death. Up to 50% of cases of malnutrition around the world are due to poor hygiene and sanitation, and diarrhea is one of the biggest killers of children in poorer countries. Hand washing can reduce the risk of diarrhea by 40%. We can take hand washing for granted in wealthy countries where access to clean water and sanitation is easy. Yet around the world 900 million children can’t wash their hands at school, 35% of hospitals have no running water or soap, and around 50% of households in the poorest countries lack access to clean water and soap.

When it comes to health, combating malnutrition, and keeping children in school, handwashing promotion is the first port of call for Governments, agencies and experts. Millions are spent each month communicating online about the importance of handwashing and an emoji would be a very important step towards a common understanding of its importance throughout the world - particularly in developing countries. It is an everyday skill needed for hundreds of millions of children and families around the world, and a bedrock of them achieving a healthy, happy life. It’ll never go out of fashion.

Find out more about how handwashing can keep you safe here.

Washing hands at the group handwashing facility

What needs to be done?

Inspired by lemiwashmyhands.org, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific is teaming up to see if we can persuade tech giants to create a handwashing emoji and help spread the importance of handwashing for years to come.

Writing in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control, Nasim Lotfinejad et al writes that hand hygiene emojis may empower infection prevention and control in different aspects such as raising awareness with no language barrier.

"The development of hand hygiene-related emojis will enable health professionals to communicate more specifically regarding their discoveries and concerns in this field. "

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