Handwashing around the world

UNICEF supplies soap, water and handwashing products to promote and make hand hygiene accessible to every child.

UNICEF
A child's soapy hands during a handwashing activity in Muong Khuong Ethnic Minority Boarding School, Lao Cai, Vietnam, in 2014.
UNICEF/UNI310642/Viet Hung
15 October 2020

Handwashing has never been more important as the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission. Regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%.
 
But handwashing is out of reach for many children and families: 40% of the world’s population does not have access to water and soap at home. In the least developed countries, 7 out of 10 schools have no place for children to wash their hands.
 
UNICEF works around the world to ensure that children and families have access to appropriate handwashing facilities. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, UNICEF Supply Division has delivered more than 954,000 toilet soap bars and 314,000 litres of hand sanitisers to help countries limit the transmission of the disease.

We also work to provide water handwashing facilities to improve hand hygiene, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged situations, and promote behavioural change interventions for optimal hand hygiene practices.

See below some examples of our work to help make hand hygiene accessible to all children. 

A girl washes her hands in Al Khader mixed primary school, in Jordan, during a handwashing instruction.
UNICEF/UNI313259/Matas

Jordan: Children in Al Khader mixed primary school, in Jordan, take part in a handwashing instruction.

Only 33% of public schools in Jordan have access to basic sanitation facilities. Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF and partners scaled up hygiene awareness, distributions of soap and community engagement activities, particularly in vulnerable communities, to empower children and their parents to protect themselves

 

A child holds a bar of soap delivered by UNICEF to his school in Gavidia community, located in Mérida state, Venezuela.
UNICEF/UNI371991/Poveda

Venezuela: A child holds a bar of soap delivered by UNICEF to his school in Gavidia community, located in Mérida state, Venezuela. In this community, UNICEF is reaching over 100 children and adolescents through recreational and school-in-a box kits (link) and hygiene supplies.

UNICEF is changing the focus of water sanitation and hygiene response in schools to include supervised handwashing and ensure that schools are ready to resume activities when the context allows.

Ahmad Shah, 12, shows his clean hands after washing them with soap provided by UNICEF in Herat, Afghanistan.
UNICEF/UNI325464/Ghafary

Afghanistan: Ahmad Shah, 12, shows his clean hands after washing them with soap provided by UNICEF. Soap bars are part of the hygiene kits that UNICEF has been providing to vulnerable families living in Herat’s internally displaced people camps.

UNICEF has supplied more than 84 tons of soap to vulnerable families in Afghanistan. We also provided safe drinking water using solar-powered water supply schemes and conducted awareness-raising sessions to promote personal hygiene.

 

A girl in Cambodia’s remote Ratanakiri district shows her clean hands, washed in a handwashing station which was procured and delivered by UNICEF Cambodia.
UNICEF/UNI369929/Seng

Cambodia: Schoolchildren in the country's remote Ratanakiri district wash their hands using a handwashing station which was procured and delivered by UNICEF Cambodia.

Schools in Cambodia re-opened on 7 September 2020. UNICEF is working hand in hand with Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to enable every school in Cambodia to open safely. This builds on global best practices and will also include the provision of basic hygiene supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, temporary handwashing stations and thermometers.

A girl washes her hands using one of recently established handwashing stations in the Konyo market in South Sudan capital Juba.
UNICEF/UNI326357/Ryeng

South Sudan: A girl washes her hands using one of recently established handwashing stations in the Konyo market in the capital Juba. UNICEF and its partners have placed 50 handwashing stations in congested areas such as markets and police stations as a COVID-19 preventive measure.

Making handwashing more available will also prevent other contagious diseases such as diarrhoea. Together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF is co-leading the COVID-19 response on water, sanitation and hygiene and infection prevention and control.

 

UNICEF Supply Officer, Pharaoh Semanhyia inspects handwashing facilities to be handed over to the Ministry of Health in Tamale in Ghana.
UNICEF/UNI342090/Buta

Ghana: Without clean water, proper handwashing is not possible. UNICEF Supply Officer, Pharaoh Semanhyia inspects handwashing facilities to be handed over to the Ministry of Health in Tamale in Ghana.

UNICEF in Ghana has been supporting the Ministry of Health with pedal-operated handwashing stations. These are distributed to health centres across the country to promote good hygiene and help curb the spread of the coronavirus.