Handwashing with soap is a powerful diarrhea prevention tool and could save the lives of more than 350,000 children every year!1 It’s simple, it’s cheap, and its impact is dramatic.
If all communities practiced universal handwashing, diarrhea risk would drop by nearly half.1
Handwashing with soap can achieve major reductions in childhood diarrhea and pneumonia by breaking the transmission cycle. Since diarrheal infections are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, routine handwashing eliminates the bacteria and viruses that cause diarrhea, particularly when regularly practiced after using the toilet, after changing a baby’s diaper, and before preparing food.
Behavior change and supportive health policies are key to ensuring handwashing and the benefits it can bring. Education about hygiene in the home, at school, and throughout the community can be powerful tools. See how WASH in schools programs in Zambia are educating the next generation.
And of course, proper hygiene is only possible with safe water.
1 Greenland K, Cairncross S, Curtis V. What can hand hygiene do for the world? 2012. London, UK: Environmental Health Group, Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Photo: PATH/Gareth Bentley