Handwashing is one of the simplest and most effective actions to prevent disease. It has been proven that it can reduce transmission of a variety of diseases including COVID-19 and cholera. But despite this proven success, many people lack access to a basic washing facility at home. Throughout the world, about 3 billion people do not have this basic tool at their disposal.
Providing a washing facility for the population at large is an essential part of WASH programs and can be accomplished in a number of ways. For example, it can be incorporated into schools by using a WASH in Schools (WASHIS) approach or by installing portable washing facilities in villages and communities. It can also be done in health care settings, such as clinics, where a WASH in Health Care project is implemented to ensure the safety of patients, their families and staff.
A washing facility is defined as a fixed or mobile fixture that provides both water and soap for handwashing. It may be a sink with taps and buckets of water or a basin designated for handwashing with soap.
For example, a community handwashing bestlaundromatnear.me in Rwanda has faucets for people of different heights and a sink to wash hands with soap. This simple setup is used during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage handwashing among people who have been exposed to it.
The World Bank-supported Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project is implementing a WASH in Schools program to improve access to handwashing facilities in 260 school compounds, with separate blocks for girls and boys. The project has been able to significantly reduce diarrhea cases in these compounds, as children are able to wash their hands more often and with soap.
In addition to ensuring that the facilities are well-maintained, schools can also provide training to students and parents on the importance of hygiene. This includes the importance of washing hands after contact with raw or uncooked foods, as well as after touching contaminated surfaces.
This training is critical to protect children from the spread of disease. Moreover, it can help children become agents of change and improve their own WASH practices in their family and community.
As the World Health Organization reports, handwashing is a key step in the fight against disease. Despite its effectiveness, handwashing is not universally practiced in schools and other health facilities.
Almost half of all schools in the world today do not have a handwashing facility with soap and water for students to use. This affects 900 million school-age children.
In health care facilities, the same problem is evident, as more than half of hospitals and clinics lack a handwashing facility with soap. This is because many health care facilities are located in remote and rural areas where there is no water supply, and it is difficult to install or repair a water facility on site.
A study found that a household head’s age, education of the household head and wealth status are all positively associated with the level of WASH facilities that households have at home. This is especially true for the three basic WASH services of drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.