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.
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.
In June 2022, eleven-year-old Sadaf Samadi washes her hands at the UNICEF-supported Fatah Girls School in Herat, Afghanistan.
“I love my school and I’m very happy to come to class. In addition to school subjects, we’re taught life skills like how to properly wash our hands. There are so many diseases around so it's really important to stay healthy and keep our hands clean”, says Sadaf.
In April 2022, Panha Lak, eleven-year-old, proudly shows his soapy hands in Maroeum Village, Kratie Province. He is keeping them clean with soap acquired via UNICEF Water and Sanitation Programme with funding from Irish Aid and in collaboration with the Ministry for Rural Development of Cambodia.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bakonga, 8 years old, washes his hands at Ilako Primary School in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, where UNICEF has installed handwashing stations to help students protect themselves from Ebola with hand hygiene. Bakonga’s school is almost an exception in sub-Saharan Africa, where almost two thirds of schools (66 per cent) have no hygiene services at all, according to a joint study by UNICEF and WHO.
A group of students wash their hands at Mchoka Primary School in Salma District. The elementary school has now sanitation facilities and several places where children can wash their hands thanks to a UNICEF supported project. Previously, according to the principal Levison Simba “there were no flowers here, the sanitary facilities were inadequate, and a large number of students dropped out of school early.”
Eighth year-old Geetu shows her brother how to properly wash hands using soap outside a public toilet at Mohammad Medical Emergency Camp in Umerkot District, Sindh Province, Pakistan. Geetu and her family are stranded at this campsite after their home was destroyed by the torrential monsoon rains and subsequent floods that washed away villages and infrastructure in Pakistan in September 2022.
A girl washes her hands during an activity to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing techniques in a school in Caracas, Venezuela. In March 2022, as a part of World Water Day celebrations, UNICEF Venezuela rolled out different activities throughout the country to promote hand hygiene, including distribution of hygiene kits to children and adolescents to promote hygiene at home.