Global Handwashing Day: So simple and so effective against COVID-19
Today, 15 October, is Global Handwashing Day. Washing hands is by far the most simple and effective way of preventing illness, including the spread of Covid-19.
Handwashing remains an essential prevention measure against COVID-19 while vaccines are being rolled out. And it is simple: it only takes clean water and soap.
On the occasion of this year’s event, the Global Handwashing Partnership published a promotional factsheet loaded with facts on effectiveness of handwashing. The factsheet mentions that hand hygiene has the potential to interrupt several routes of COVID-19 transmission, such as removing the pathogen from contaminated hands before it is transferred to other people or surfaces.
Apparently, there is still limited evidence about the effect of handwashing in reducing the Covid-19 infection itself. One study found that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of Covid-19 infection by 36 percent and another found that handwashing before returning from outdoors and touching your face may reduce the chance of infection by 2-30 percent.
Universal access to clean water
The tragic is that where Covid-19 vaccines are less available, there also seems to be less access to clean water and soap. This underpins the importance of universal access to water and sanitation.
On every occasion, Dutch special envoy for water, Henk Ovink, draws attention to this interlinkage. With relentless effort he keeps telling that water, sanitation and hygiene are the first line of defense and clean water is desperately needed in all far-off corners of the world. ‘Water is life, and death alas. And with climate change, water availability is even a bigger challenge.’
Ovink is also hopeful: ‘Then again, we can turn it around! Water is the most important leverage for climate action and sustainable development. With all, for all, everywhere!’
As water envoy for the Netherlands, Ovink is actively involved in the preparation of the UN Water Conference in 2023 in New York, co-hosted by the Government of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The aim of the conference is to accelerate action on SDG#6 on water. ‘We have a commitment to achieve the goal by 2030. I hope the conference will be the watershed moment the world is waiting for. We must come together on water and change course. Change the tide, towards a better future for all'.
Getting the message out
In the midst of the pandemic there were signs that more people washed their hands. Water trucks even brought clean water to remote areas without running water. However, it seems that the duration of the pandemic is causing fatigue related to messaging around prevention measures. Global Handwashing Partnership is trying to gain new momentum on this year's Global Handwashing Day to get the message out. Download their GHD 2021 Fact sheet on hand hygiene and COVID-19.