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Global Handwashing Day 2021: hand hygiene for all

From saving lives to protecting the vulnerable, vaccines are a strong argument for one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Despite fears that immunity might lessen over time, 196 countries and territories have now administered vaccines to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of September 2021, China and India have delivered the highest number of doses and studies show that the fully vaccinated are highly protected against severe infection, hospitalisation and death. 

Vaccinations alone, however, aren’t the solution. The pandemic is a flagrant reminder that the most effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and other viruses, such as cold, influenza and norovirus, are also the simplest – wearing a mask and hand hygiene. While clean, safe air is more important than ever, a recent study also found that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%.

Hand sanitisers offer an extra layer of hygiene but handwashing with soap is often considered the easiest, most effective and affordable. However, for some people, this simply isn’t true. During the pandemic, 2.3 billion people worldwide did not have access to a hand hygiene facility in their homes, leaving them at risk of COVID-19 and other infections because they could not wash their hands. 

By 2030, it’s predicted that 78% of people will have access, leaving approximately 1.9 billion people unable to do something most of us take for granted. Furthermore, many households that do have access to soap often use it for laundry, dish washing or bathing rather than hand washing. In the current climate, without better education and greater access, that could be disastrous.

 

Why do we celebrate Global Handwashing Day?

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated annually on October 15 Founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, the global annual day is to remind individuals to cultivate proper and adequate hand washing habits. By constantly remembering to wash your hands after visiting a washroom, before and after food handling or engaging in activities with cross contamination risks, we can help to reduce the risks of contracting diseases due to poor hygiene.

As the leading hygiene specialist, we embrace Global Handwashing Day objectives in adhering hand hygiene standards by fostering the culture locally and reinforce the benefits of handwashing.

 

We can transmit germs and bacteria in various ways:

  • Spread germs through food preparation and consumption
  • Close contact with unwell people or in public
  • Contact or interaction through contamination hands
  • Adopting poor washroom habits & hygiene
  • Presence of surfaces with germs and bacteria
  • As our hands are constantly in contact with surfaces, actions, activities or an environment with people interaction and traffic, we are unable to assure hygiene are met with our naked eyes. There is also a misperception that clean surfaces equals hygienic surfaces. A clean surface may habour germs.

On average, we visit the washroom 2,500 times in a year, which equates to 6 to 8 times a year. This places us at higher risks of cross contamination and picking up diseases relating to hygiene such as gastrointestinal infection, for example Salmonella and respiratory infections such as influenza.

It only takes 20 seconds to wash your hands and a constant reminder and habit to remember to wash them. Ensure hand washing tools and facilities are made available to cultivate this habit, such as hand soap, hand drying tools and hand sanitisers.

 

Our future is in your hands

Around the world, handwashing practices have not increased equally. People living in fragile settings or low-income and middle-income countries have continued to come up against barriers to handwashing during the pandemic.

Society needs to work together as we aim for universal access to clean handwashing facilities. There’s a tremendous need for collective action to address hand hygiene investments, policies and programs. Businesses must commit to promoting good handwashing practices among their workforces to enable a culture of hand hygiene.

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