Global Waters
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Global Waters

Photo Essay: Global Handwashing Day 2018: Clean Hands — A Recipe for Health

Now entering its 10th year, Global Handwashing Day is an international advocacy day dedicated to raising awareness about the key role handwashing behavior change plays in improving public health. In this photo essay, see how USAID’s support for improved handwashing practices is helping create healthier communities around the world.

Combining the right ingredients — water and soap — with the right utensils — like handwashing stations, sinks, tippy taps, buckets and towels — creates a recipe for handwashing that stops the spread of germs and diseases. At 2017 Global Handwashing Day celebrations in Sulawesi, Indonesia, USAID’s Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Penyehatan Lingkungan untuk Semua (IUWASH PLUS) program helped local primary school teachers and students make successful hand washing their best new habit.

Studies have found a direct link between increased handwashing and improved overall health. USAID’s recipe for health focuses on increasing the practice of handwashing with soap, safely disposing of feces, managing safe drinking water, and practicing safe food hygiene. All of these behaviors start at home, which is why it is important for parents to teach them to their children. Here, a mother in Afghanistan participates in a USAID training that emphasizes the importance of handwashing.

This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme links handwashing with food safety and encourages families to make handwashing a part of their meal. Emerging evidence points to the likely importance of a household’s overall hygienic environment for reducing disease and improving nutrition, especially among children. USAID promotes practicing proper handwashing during three critical junctures related to food: before preparing food, before eating, and before feeding others in order to prevent foodborne illnesses and keep families healthy. These junctures are emphasized and promoted during nutrition activities and demonstrations, such as this one in Cambodia that links improved food production with better child nutrition.

Promoting handwashing and hygiene behaviors in schools can be as simple as providing handwashing stations with soap near toilets and practicing handwashing as a group at set times, like before lunch. It’s important to keep practices inclusive and simple so that they motivate people even at a young age to form healthy habits

Students like these DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) participants in Kenya serve as both advocates and models for improved handwashing behaviors. Schools are great places to introduce and improve health and hygiene techniques. Schools often, however, lack basic materials such as handwashing stations and soap. Empowering adolescent girls and young women with the right ingredients (supplies) and recipes (messages) improves individual and family health outcomes while unlocking their educational potential.

How does USAID measure success in improving hygiene? Through a mixture​ of conducting research ​to identify consumer and household preferences, needs, and barriers to behavior change, and facilitating ​the ​availability of multiple product choices that support improved hygiene behaviors. With a ​little bit of practice, a young girl in Bangladesh learns the importance of handwashing during a USAID Food For Peace demonstration.

By Claire Hubert

Additional Resources:

This photo essay appears in Global Waters, Vol. 9, Issue 5; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on



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USAID Water Team

USAID and its partners improve access to clean water and safe sanitation to create a healthier and more #WaterSecureWorld. For more, visit