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Access To Clean Water For Hand-washing Is Crucial In Coronavirus Containment

New York, United States

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not a water-borne disease but lack of access to clean water, sanitation and good hygiene can hamper containment efforts, as handwashing and handwashing with soap are key elements in prevention of the impact of respiratory and diarrheal diseases.

Handwashing with soap, when done correctly, is critical in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but millions of people have no ready access to a place to wash their hands, UNICEF said 13 March. In total, only 3 out of 5 people worldwide have basic handwashing facilities, according to the latest data.

As the pandemic continues its spread, UNICEF reminded the public of the importance of handwashing as a key prevention measure against COVID-19 and urging renewed efforts to provide access to this most basic of public health interventions around the world.

“Handwashing with soap is one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, as well as many other infectious diseases. Yet for billions, even this most basic of steps is simply out of reach.” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programmes. “It is far from a magic bullet. But it is important to make sure people know what steps they should take to keep themselves and their families safe, even as we continue our longstanding efforts to make basic hygiene and sanitation available to everyone.”

WaterAid America has launched a fundraising appeal, noting that “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".

Globally, at least 785 million people do not have access to clean water; 2.3 billion do not have access to safe toilets. In healthcare facilities, about 45 percent in the poorest countries have no clean water on site; about 20 percent do not have decent toilets; about 17 percent have no handwashing facilities at all. A little more than 25 percent have access to safe medical waste disposal, and there is very limited data on medical facility general cleaning.

Quoting a number of World Health Organization, UNICEF and international reports, WaterAid provides some fast facts on handwashing:

  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) people globally wash their hands with soap after using the toilet.
  • 1 in 3 primary schools worldwide does not have handwashing facilities.
  • Around 310,000 children die each year from diarrheal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s over 800 children each day, or one child every two minutes.
  • 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.
  • 785 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.
  • Handwashing with soap reduces the risk of diarrheal diseases by 42-47%.
  • Lack of access to sanitation and poor hygiene contribute to approximately 88% of childhood deaths caused by diarrheal diseases.
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