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Handwashing essential in preventing Coronavirus, but millions do not have access to soap and water

  • Handwashing essential in preventing Coronavirus, but millions do not have access to soap and water
    WaterAid/ Guilhem Alandry

About the entity

We are the leading clean water non-profit. Since 1981, we have equipped people with clean water and decent toilets empowering them to unlock their potential.

Preventing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is almost impossible without clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene. 

Currently, 785 million people globally lack access to clean water and 2.3 billion are without safe, private toilets. In the poorest countries almost half (45%) of health care facilities do not have clean water on site. 

According to the Unicef-WHO Joint Monitoring Programme, one in five healthcare facilities (21%) globally do not provide decent toilets and one in six health care facilities have no handwashing facilities at all.

Handwashing is one of the simplest and most effective disease prevention methods available, says Kelly Parsons, U.S. CEO of WaterAid. It’s unacceptable that millions of people worldwide do not have access to basic services like clean water, sanitation and soap for handwashing. We can and should do better to prevent illness and loss of life

Data shows that hygiene services – including the ability to wash hands with soap – in health care facilities are often lacking. For example, in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia just one in three health care facilities (36%) had facilities to allow for handwashing with soap.

Also of concern are the number of health facilities without good waste management and general cleaning, which can contribute to the spread of infection. Only one in four (27%) health care facilities in least developed countries had the ability to safely dispose of medical waste, and only four countries had data on how health facilities are cleaned.

Progress on access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in low- and middle-income countries is perilously slow, despite an international target to reach everyone, everywhere with access to clean water and toilets by 2030.

Handwashing has been shown to reduce cases of all respiratory diseases by 20% and diarrhea by 30% and can help healthcare centers be better placed to support a response to an outbreak.

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