Lack of hand washing with soap puts millions at risk for coronavirus: UNICEF

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 15 — Although hand washing with soap is crucial in the fight against infectious diseases, including coronavirus, billions of people around the world do not have access to a place to do so, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF) said Thursday.

According to new estimates from UNICEF, 40 percent of the world’s population – or 3 billion people – do not have a hand-washing facility with water and soap at home. The number is much higher in the least developed countries, where almost three-quarters are without.

Kelly Ann Naylor, co-director of water, sanitation and hygiene at UNICEF, said it was “unacceptable” that the most vulnerable communities could not use the simplest methods to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“The pandemic emphasized the critical role of hand hygiene in the prevention of diseases. It also highlighted a problem for many people: hand washing with soap remains out of reach for millions of children where they are born, live and learn. ”

“We must act immediately to make hand washing with soap accessible to everyone, everywhere and now and in the future,” she insisted.

The situation is also worrying at schools: 43 per cent worldwide (70 per cent in the least developed countries) do not have a hand-washing facility with water and soap, according to estimates.

Against this background, UNICEF, together with the UN World Health Organization, launched the “Hand Hygiene for All” initiative to support the development of national roadmaps to accelerate and maintain progress in making hand hygiene a pillar of public health interventions.

This means rapidly improving access to hand washing facilities, water, soap and disinfectant in all areas, as well as promoting behavioral changes for optimal hand hygiene, UNICEF said.

The initiative brings together international, national and local partners to ensure that affordable products and services are available and sustainable, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

The estimates were released on Thursday, coinciding with Global Handwashing Day, which serves as a platform to promote the importance of hand washing with soap.

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