Although handwashing with soap is vital in the fight against infectious diseases, including the novel coronavirus, 40 per cent of the world’s population, or 3 billion people, do not have access to it, according to new Unicef estimates.
The estimates issued on Thursday revealed that the number is much higher in the least developed countries, where nearly three-quarters do not have handwashing facilities at home, reports Xinhua news agency.
Kelly Ann Naylor, associate director of water, sanitation and hygiene at Unicef, said that it was “unacceptable" that the most vulnerable communities are unable to use the simplest of methods to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of hand hygiene in disease prevention. It has also stressed a pre-existing problem for many: handwashing with soap remains out of reach for millions of children where they’re born, live and learn.
“We must take immediate action to make handwashing with soap accessible to everyone, everywhere — now and in the future," she said.
The situation is also alarming at schools: 43 per cent globally (70 percent in the least developed countries) lack a handwashing facility with water and soap, affecting hundreds of millions of children, according to the estimates.
Against this backdrop, Unicef, along with the World Health Organization, launched the “Hand Hygiene for All" initiative to support the development of national roadmaps to accelerate and sustain progress toward making hand hygiene a mainstay in public health interventions.
The initiative brings together international, national, and local partners, to ensure affordable products and services are available and sustainable, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.
The estimates coincided with the Global Handwashing Day marked annually on October 15, which serves as a platform to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing with soap.
The global campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of handwashing with soap as a key factor in disease prevention.