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Global Handwashing Day

Updated Wednesday, 11 October 2023
Take a look at the cultural, social and religious implications of washing hands while also learning more about the science of hygiene and sanitation. 

Global Handwashing Day Logo 15th October is Global Handwashing Day, a day dedicated to increasing awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap as an affordable way to improve health and save lives by preventing infections.  

  • Many infections start when hands are contaminated with disease-causing bacterial and viruses.
  • Handwashing with soap removes the bacteria and viruses, preventing infections before they have a chance to spread to other people.
  • Illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia are transmitted on the hands.
  • These illnesses kill an estimated 1.7 million children each year.
  • Handwashing with soap is a simple, cost effective way to prevent many of these deaths.

Find out more about disease prevention and the importance of handwashing, hygiene and sanitation in these free courses from The Open University.

The theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day is “Clean hands are within reach”. Changes in handwashing behavior are often temporary; think how often a small child has to be reminded to wash their hands, but for handwashing to be effective it must be practiced regularly. There are many difficulties in establishing handwashing behavior as a habit including the availability of water in many poorer countries and personal, social, cultural and religious barriers. Consequently, establishing handwashing behavior as a habit is one of the great challenges currently facing those who promote handwashing.

Read more about how The Open University has worked in partnership with World Vision Ethiopia and UNICEF to develop learning resources that help WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) practitioners influence behaviors like handwashing and improve hygiene and sanitation.




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