Handwashing around the world

We celebrate World Handwashing Day on 15 October showcasing examples of how we help make hand hygiene accessible to every child with one of the world’s oldest inventions.

A boy holds a soap bar given to him at a UNICEF-supported distribution site in Barmal District, Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
14 October 2022

So far this year, Supply Division has procured 3.2 million soap bars that are packed as part of UNICEF  kits used in emergency situations.  

These soap bars go a long way in protecting children’s health and well-being. Handwashing with soap is one of the cheapest and best ways to reduce:

  • Diarrhoeal diseases by 30 per cent
  • Acute respiratory infections by up to 20 per cent
  • Infant deaths caused by infections by 27 per cent
  • Missed school days by 43 per cent
  • Transmission of pathogens such as cholera, Ebola, shigellosis, SARS, hepatitis E, and COVID-19.

But many children and families cannot wash their hands simply because they do not have access to water and soap. In 2021, only 58 per cent of schools had handwashing facilities with soap and water, leaving 802 million children without access to a basic hygiene service at school.

UNICEF works around the world to ensure that children and families have access to appropriate hand hygiene products. Soap, one of the world’s oldest inventions, is a UNICEF key supply item for promoting and enabling hand hygiene around the world.  

See below some examples of how UNICEF uses plain soap bars to protect children’s health and well-being.