On Global Handwashing Day, 15 October, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore introduced the new Hand Hygiene For All Initiative, saing that “hand hygiene is everyone’s business” and that it must become a priority as a vital first line of defense, especially against the COVID-19 virus.
Through this initiative, WHO, UNICEF, and other partners are urging global leaders to ensure that handwashing is both possible and promoted in homes, schools, healthcare facilities, care homes, workplaces and in public areas. They warn that without the full commitment of governments, community, and private sector to participate, the world risks a continuous cycle of COVID-19 and similar pandemics leading to more and more needless deaths due to infectious diseases.
Fore indicated that to bring “this vision to life means building new political will and new sources of funding and financing.” She cites that Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive had led the way with generous contributions of soap and hygiene products. Through a partnership with LIXIL, a new low-cost, low water-flow handwashing device can be distributed to more households to fulfill handwashing needs.
The World Economic Forum, WHO and the World Bank are soliciting more partners, more ideas and more funding to address the greater need for hygiene-related investment. Finally, Fore also indicated that there is an existing pipeline of $500 Million USD in projects under development.
WHO and UNICEF underscore that the most vulnerable communities are still exposed and that sustainable solutions must be developed to meet long-term requirements. “We are at a critical juncture – what the global community does or does not do to sustain handwashing now could save or kill millions of vulnerable children, slow or drive the spread of antimicrobial resistance and also determine the first line of defence for adolescents, adults and the elderly.”