Hand hygiene is a critical element in disease prevention. Yet latest global estimates find that 3 billion people lacked soap and water at home, over 800 million children lacked soap and water at their school, and 32 per cent of health care facilities were not equipped to practice hand hygiene at points of care. Adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services for households, schools and healthcare facilities are essential to prevent the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19. The low levels of coverage of these basic services in many parts of the world reflect substantial inequalities between and within countries and contribute to the vulnerability of these populations to the pandemic.

Household WASH

Alongside social distancing, case isolation and contract tracing, regular handwashing with water and soap is recognized as one of the most important measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Yet many people still do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap available at home. The latest JMP report finds that globally just 3 out of 5 people had a basic handwashing facility, with coverage even lower in Least Developed Countries (one in four). In 2017, 2.2 billion people lacked safely managed drinking water services (drinking water accessible on premises, available when needed and free from contamination) and 4.2 billion lacked a safely managed sanitation service (a sanitation facility with excreta safely disposed of in situ or treated off-site). Among these the 785 million who lacked a basic drinking water service (relying on either distant or unimproved sources to meet their household needs), and 2.3 billion who lacked a basic sanitation service (using shared facilities, unimproved facilities or practising open defection) are much less likely to be able to protect themselves and to practise social distancing.

WASH in schools

Provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services ensures that schools provide a safe and clean environment and do not become a hub for the transmission of COVID-19, especially as schools are reopened following lockdowns in many countries. The JMP 2020 report on WASH in schools presents updated estimates for basic WASH services, finding that globally nearly one in three schools  (31 per cent) lacked basic drinking water services (affecting nearly 600 million children) and over one third (37 per cent) lacked basic sanitation services (affecting nearly 700 million children). Two in five schools (43 per cent) lacked basic hygiene services, affecting more than 800 million children around the world. In Least Developed countries, 49 per cent of all schools have no handwashing facility at all.

WASH in healthcare facilities

WASH services and related infection prevention and control (IPC) including healthcare waste management and environmental cleaning are essential to prevent infections amongst patients and staff. The latest JMP estimates on WASH in health care facilities provide finds that: One in four (24 per cent) health care facilities lack basic water services, one in ten (10 per cent) had no sanitation service and one in three (32 per cent) lacked hand hygiene facilities at points of care. There were insufficient data to generate global estimates for basic waste management services, and only 12 countries had sufficient data on basic environmental cleaning services. In Least Developed Countries, just 30 per cent health care facilities had systems for safe segregation, treatment and disposal of infectious health care waste.



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