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ater, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are among the most basic human needs. In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized WASH as a human right. We now know that improved WASH leads to good health, improved productivity, and reduced inequality. While water and sanitation garner the majority of WASH attention, it is important to remember that hygiene, especially handwashing, is a critically important component of WASH. In 2012, the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of the World Health Organization and UNICEF developed four proposed WASH targets for the post-2015 agenda, including the need for universal access to hygiene. These targets are: No one practices open defecation Everyone has safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home All schools and health centers have water, sanitation and hygiene

Water, sanitation and hygiene are sustainable and inequalities have been progressively eliminated

Universal adequate handwashing in homes, schools and health centers is a key indicator to achieve these hygiene targets.

Why Handwashing?
Handwashing with soap is a very effective health intervention on its own, or as a complement to sanitation, nutrition and other health initiatives. Handwashing with soap reduces the two leading causes of child mortality, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, by up to 45 percent1 and 23 percent2, respectively. Handwashing is a do-it-yourself vaccine for these diseases. Handwashing with soap is the most eective WASH intervention to reduce diarrhea. While water and sanitation interventions lead to a pooled eect of 17 percent and 36 percent

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing

Photo Credit: Plan International

Handwashing and WASH in the Post-2015 Agenda


reductions in self-reported diarrhea, handwashing with soap leads to a pooled eect of 43 percent reduction in self-reported diarrhea.3 Handwashing with soap is the most cost-eective WASH intervention for reducing diarrhea.4 In one study, birth attendant and maternal handwashing with soap lowered the risk of newborn death by 41 percent. This nding suggests that handwashing reduces overall newborn exposure to life-threatening pathogens, thus reducing mortality due to infection.5

Most Effective

of soap at home for handwashing. In countries with per capita GDP of less than $1,000, a minority of households were observed to have soap, compared to nearly universal access to soap for handwashing among countries with higher GDP. Maintenance of soap and water at a place to facilitate handwashing is marked by substantial global and within-country inequities based on wealth strata, urban vs. rural location, and education level. These inequities prevent health gains from being made for the worlds most vulnerable children. If the world wants to improve health, decrease child mortality, and reduce inequality, it is essential that handwashing with soap be included in the post-2015 agenda. Handwashing with soap is not an extra, it is essential.

Handwashing on the Global Stage

Handwashing with soap is also a target that can be tracked. In fact, handwashing data are already being collected in two global household surveys. The data show that there are global disparities in the availability

1. Fewtrell et al. 2005. Water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions to reduce diarrhoea in less developed countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infectious Diseases. 5: 4252. Curtis V. and S. Cairncross. 2003. Eect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. Lancet Infectious Diseases. 3(5):27581. Cairncross S., C. Hunt, S. Boisson, V. Curtis, I. Fung, and W. Schmidt. 2010. Water, sanitation, and hygiene for diarrhea prevention. International Journal of Epidemiology, 39: 193205. Jamison et al. 2006. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, Second Ed. Rhee V. et al. 2008. Maternal and Birth Attendant Hand Washing and Neonatal Mortality in Southern Nepal. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Vol. 162 (No. 7), pp 603-608. July 2008.





Photo Credit: USAID/Hygiene Improvement Project

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing