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Laying down the importance of good hand hygiene

The WHO Environment, Climate Change and Health Department’s Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health (WSH) Unit is producing hand hygiene guidelines for community settings.

Hand hygiene is vital for preventing and controlling infections, as well as a range of other health impacts. Effective hand hygiene could prevent one out of every ten maternal deaths owing to illnesses associated to unclean birth environments each year, as well as deaths from gastrointestinal sickness and acute respiratory infections. Furthermore, one of the most important measures to avoid SARS-CoV-2 infection is to keep your hands clean.

Nonetheless, hand hygiene in low- and middle-income countries suffers from a lack of coverage, as well as insufficient rules, funding, and monitoring. In 30% of households and 43% of schools, handwashing facilities with soap and water are not available. In 56.32 percent of healthcare facilities, hand hygiene facilities are not available. Three-quarters of people in the world’s poorest countries lack access to clean water and soap. While COVID-19 is not a new public health concern, it has highlighted the importance of hand hygiene as a cost-effective outbreak response strategy.

Political leaders have devoted special attention to hand hygiene since the COVID-19 outbreak, and significant improvement has been made. Governments, international organisations, the private sector, and civil society organisations have all taken initiatives to promote global hand hygiene access.
In addition to the immediate response, a few countries have proven a commitment to creating an enabling environment for long-term reform. Because of the rising attention on hand hygiene, there is a greater demand for intervention and implementation guidance all over the world.

The emphasis is on important hand hygiene moments involving cleanliness and defection. Other instances of hand hygiene are worth mentioning, especially with the increased awareness of the importance of hand hygiene in limiting the transmission of infectious diseases.

Objective
• Provide evidence-based recommendations on what constitutes excellent hand hygiene, effective treatments to achieve it, and how to execute them in a range of contexts and settings to improve hand hygiene coverage and access.
• Contribute to the 13th General Programme of Work’s three key areas: universal health coverage, health emergencies, and healthy populations. WASH is an essential health service, as well as a key socioeconomic determinant in population health and an important component of emergency preparedness.
• Lower the rates of diarrhoea (including cholera), pneumonia, neglected tropical diseases, maternal and newborn sepsis, and healthcare-associated infections, among other population health outcomes.
Governments are responsible for ensuring that the above-mentioned minimal criteria for good hand hygiene are implemented throughout major contexts in the community setting, in order to preserve the health of the national population and those around them. Depending on whether the requirements are related to hardware or software, the responsibility for achieving minimal requirements is split between government ministries and settings (households, schools, etc). These obligations are occasionally carried out as part of larger packages involving a large number of players.

However, there are no universally agreed-upon recommendations for large-scale policy initiatives that governments should take to ensure basic standards in significant community situations.

A better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of various government ministries in ensuring affordable water and soap in key locations, as well as the most effective legislative, executive, administrative, fiscal, and other policy interventions to achieve these goals, is required to make such recommendations.

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