Clean Hands Save Lives
Sustaining Positive Handwashing Behavior Change During COVID-19 and Beyond
When the world was thrown into the unknown at the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, one thing remained true: handwashing is our first line of defense against the spread of infectious diseases. With nearly 2.3 billion people worldwide lacking access to clean water and soap in their homes, efforts to support communities and health facilities access handwashing resources became more important than ever.
Healthcare providers and public health professionals have continued to reiterate the message that handwashing can help prevent illness. With such a focus on improving hygiene behaviors to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many communities have been able to improve handwashing to prevent not only COVID-19 infection, but other infectious diseases as well.
USAID has been a critical part of the effort to improve handwashing in homes, communities, and health care facilities worldwide since the start of the pandemic.
As part of USAID’s COVID-19 response efforts in Ethiopia, local partnerships with manufacturers of home handwashing products and a robust marketing campaign resulted in more than 11,000 handwashing stations purchased by households to date.
In Benin, USAID’s Sanitation Service Delivery program teamed up with the Government of Benin’s COVID-19 task force, led handwashing campaigns within municipalities, and facilitated the delivery of handwashing systems, soaps, and hand sanitizer to homes. Through this partnership, USAID program staff worked alongside local authorities to launch COVID-19 awareness campaigns.
Access to handwashing resources in health care facilities is essential to provide quality, equitable health care but globally, globally, 42 percent of health care facilities do not have access to handwashing resources, and one in four health care facilities lack basic water services.
In response to COVID-19 and with USAID support, local committees in Nepal installed water drums and handwashing stations at health posts for patients to effectively wash hands with soap and water before entering. In addition, USAID built fully functioning water supply systems in 57 health posts across Nepal to assist health workers and patients in limiting the spread of infectious diseases through proper handwashing.
Handwashing education and COVID-19 awareness campaigns are a critical part of USAID’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Cote d’Ivoire, USAID supported a nationwide handwashing education campaign with the Ministry of Sanitation in markets, hospitals, and public places in 50 localities, reaching more than 10,000 people. USAID also partnered with 15 local radio stations, broadcasting more than 14,000 radio messages on the importance of safe hygiene practices.
In Indonesia, USAID worked to reduce the spread of the virus by partnering with community health clinics to share messaging about safe hygiene habits through mediums such as radio jingles and social media posts.
As part of Nigeria’s National WASH Response on COVID-19, USAID partnered with local telecommunication firms to share messaging about handwashing with millions of Nigerian cellphone users.
In order to build back better, sustained handwashing behaviors can help to limit the spread of all types of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, to keep communities healthy and thriving.
By Stephanie Mork, a Communications Analyst in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health