10 Facts about handwashing #Globalhandwashingday

Celebrated annually on October 15, Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Hygiene is a critical, low -cost solution for preventing maternal and newborn infection. As we celebrate observe #Global Handwashing Day, the Healthy Newborn Network is sharing recent research, success storiesnews, and resources that demonstrate how handwashing and other hygiene practices can save lives. Please explore the following 10 facts about handwashing and spread the word on the importance of handwashing!

10 Facts about Handwashing

1. Of the 6.3 million children who died before age 5 in 2013, 51.8% of death was caused by infectious disease and 44% during the vulnerable neonatal period (< 28 days of life).

Many of these infections could have been prevented by improving handwashing behaviors of mothers and other caregivers.

2. Pneumonia, the infectious disease that kills the most children under age 5, can be prevented by washing hands with soap.

Mohit, nine months, is suffering from pneumonia and malnutrition. He is being cared for by the staff at Tonk General Hospital Rajasthan, India.

3. Washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50%.

Nimule Hospital in South Sudan is the largest health facility in Eastern Equatoria state. With the influx of more than 35,000 displaced people into Nimule the services on offer at the hospital are under strain. The maternity ward is currently coping with around 10 deliveries a day. Amongst the IDPs common problems include malaria, chest infections, diarrhoea and cases of malnutrition amongst children and pregnant women caused by living days if not weeks with no shelter, no clean water, no healthcare and little food.

4. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, 1 million deaths a year could be prevented.

Using clear bottles, sunlight and a little time, the CDC reports that diarrheal diseases can be reduced by as much as 86%.

5. Among newborns, sepsis and other severe infections are major killers estimated to cause 430,000 deaths annually. The risks associated with sepsis are 34 times greater in low -resource settings.

Teresa, 22, holds her ten-days-old baby boy, Nabuth, while sleeps quietly on a hospital bed, Guija district, Gaza province in Mozambique. Just hours earlier Nabuth was fighting for his life. On a house visit, health worker Messalina saw that Nabuth was burning with fever and refused to breast-feed. She got mother and child on a minibus and took them to the nearest hospital. At the hospital Nabuth was diagnosed with sepsis, an infectious disease which is deadly for newborns if not treated on time.

6. Handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective health interventions.

A study in Nepal showed handwashing by birth attendants and mothers helped reduce neonatal mortality by 41%.

7. Lack of access to water and sanitation in health care facilities may discourage women from giving birth in these facilities or cause delays in care-seeking.

Afshan, a 9 day old baby girl has an umbilical cord infection as a result of not following up on medical appointments and is also suffering from insect bites. A lack of clean water and proper hygiene has exasperated both problems.
Source: WaterAid, http://www.wateraid.org/healthystart

8. Conversely, improving WASH conditions can build trust in health services and encourage mothers to seek prenatal care and deliver in facilities rather than at home – important elements of the strategy to reduce maternal mortality.

9. Drawing on data from 54 low- and middle-income countries, a WHO report concludes that 38% lack access to even rudimentary levels of water, 19% lack sanitation. and 35% do not have water and soap for handwashing.

10. Healthcare - associated infections affect hundreds of millions of patients each year. An estimated 15% of patients develop one or more infections during a hospital stay.


1. Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality in 2000–13, with projections to inform post-2015 priorities: an updated systematic analysis, the lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61698-6/abstract

2. Aiello, AE, Coulborn RM, Perez V, Larson EL. Effect of Hand Hygiene on Infectious Disease Risk in the Community Setting: A Meta-Analysis. Am J Public Health. 2008 August; 98(8): 1372–1381.

3. World Health Organization. Water for health: taking charge. 2001.

4. Curtis V, Camicross S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: A systematic review.

5. Rhee, V. et al (2009). Impact of Maternal and Birth Attendant Hand-washing on Neonatal Mortality in Southern Nepal.

6. NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/01/12/375663920/the-doctor-who-championed-hand-washing-and-saved-women-s-lives

7. Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities, Status in low- and middle-income countries and way forward, WHO: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/wash-health-care-facilities/en/

8. Allegranzi B, Nejad SB, Combescure C, Graafmans W, Attar H, Donaldson L et al. (2011). Burden of endemic health-care-associated infection in developing countries: systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet, 377: 228-241.

9. Russo et al., 2012.

10. Allegranzi et al, 2011.

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