Although washing hands with soap is vital in the fight against infectious diseases, including COVID-19, billions of people around the world do not have immediate access to a place to do it, the United Nations Fund said Thursday. for Children.
According to new estimates of UNICEF, 40% of the world’s population, that is, 3 billion people, do not have facilities to wash their hands with soap and water at home. The number is much higher in the least developed countries, where almost three-quarters of the population do not have it.
Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Associate Director for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, says it is “unacceptable” that the most vulnerable communities cannot use the simplest methods to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of hand hygiene in preventing disease. He has also emphasized a pre-existing problem for many: Washing hands with soap remains out of reach for millions of children where they are born, live and learn. We must take immediate action to make handwashing with soap accessible to everyone, everywhere, now and in the future, ”he said.
The situation is also alarming in schools globally: 43% (70% in least developed countries) lack water facilities, affecting hundreds of millions of school-age children, according to estimates.
© UNICEF / Vinay Panjwani
The danger of COVID-19
UNICEF data shows that in the 60 countries with the highest risk of a humanitarian or health crisis from COVID-19, two out of three people have nowhere to wash their hands.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 63% of the population in urban areas, or 258 million people, do not have access; in Central and South Asia, 22%, or 153 million people.
© UNICEF / Bona Khoy
“Hand hygiene for everyone”
UNICEF, together with World Health Organization of the United Nations, launched the “Hand Hygiene for All” initiative to support the development of national plans to accelerate and sustain progress towards hand washing as a pillar of public health interventions.
This means rapidly improve access to facilities with soap, water, and disinfectant in all settings, as well as promoting behavior change interventions for optimal hygiene practices.
The initiative brings together international, national and local partners to ensure the availability and sustainability of affordable products and services, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.