The simplest way to protect against a range of diseases.
Good hand hygiene is a cornerstone of safe and effective health care. It is a highly cost-effective public health measure that is also crucial to protecting against a range of diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Global and national estimates reflect vast inequalities in access to handwashing, even within countries. Where hand hygiene facilities are available, research has shown that people, especially men, do not use them consistently. Greater political support and behaviour change interventions are needed to make substantial improvements in the policies, strategies and actions that drive sustainable change.
- 2.3 billion people do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home.
- Almost half of schools lack a handwashing facility with water and soap, affecting some 802 million school-age children.
- Roughly half of health-care facilities lack hand hygiene facilities at points where patients are treated.
UNICEF supports national handwashing campaigns and helps integrate handwashing into other existing programmes – like health, education and nutrition – in over 90 countries.
Making services available
To ensure that children, their families and surrounding communities have access to appropriate handwashing facilities and supplies, we support local and global product innovation and help to find new ways of bringing affordable products and services to the most vulnerable.
We help governments reach people through a variety of channels, from community health and outreach workers, to teachers and local celebrities, and social and mass media. We build on research and evidence to ensure our work is based on the latest behavioural science on handwashing.
Driving policy and monitoring change
Together with governments, we develop handwashing policies, strategies and action plans to promote handwashing and make services and supplies available. This includes hand hygiene in school policies and health-care facilities. In collaboration with the World Health Organization, we monitor handwashing in households, schools and health-care facilities around the world.
Forging partnerships to promote “Hand Hygiene for All”
UNICEF has supported hand hygiene initiatives to combat some of the worst epidemics, including Ebola and cholera, for many years. Since the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has scaled up hand hygiene efforts in various countries and regions through the Hand Hygiene for All Initiative. This sets ambitious targets for expanding access to hand hygiene in schools, health-care facilities, workspaces, displacement camps and other key areas of public interest. Our global coordination with partners will help ensure countries hold on to the gains made in hand hygiene beyond the pandemic.
Global Handwashing Day
The largest annual event for hand hygiene is Global Handwashing Day, celebrated on 15 October. It is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, private companies and individuals, and commemorated around the globe to make hand hygiene a habitual practice.