Tag Archives: Respiratory Disorders

Handwashing Fact Sheet and Annotated Bibliography

Below is a fact sheet from a recent UNICEF literature review and an annotated bibliography of handwashing studies that we hope will be useful for Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15, 2010.

Evidence Specific to Handwashing with Soap (Fact Sheet)- From: Evidence base: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Interventions Literature Review: September 2010, Peter van Maanen, WASH Section, UNICEF.

  • Handwashing at critical times including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet can reduce diarrhoea rates by almost 40 per cent (3IE 2009).
  • Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARI’s) by around 23 per cent (WELL 2007).
  • One study assessed the effect of hand washing promotion with soap on the incidence of pneumonia and found that children younger than 5 years in households that received plain soap and hand washing promotion had a 50% lower incidence of pneumonia than controls.
  • Pneumonia (a lower respiratory infection) is the number one cause of mortality among children under five years old, taking the lives of an estimated 1.8 million children per year (SOWC 2008).
  • Handwashing can be a critical measure in controlling pandemic outbreaks of respiratory infections. Several studies carried out during the 2006 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) suggest that washing hands more than 10 times a day can cut the spread of the respiratory virus by 55 per cent (BMJ 2009).
  • Handwashing with soap is has been cited as one of the most cost effective interventions to prevent diarrhoeal related deaths and disease (Cairncross and Valdmanis 2006).
  • A review of several studies shows that handwashing in institutions such as primary schools and daycare centers reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by an average of 30 per cent (Cochrane 2008).
  • Rates of handwashing around the world are low. Observed rates of handwashing with soap at critical moments – i.e, before handling food and after using the toilet range from zero per cent to 34 per cent (Scott et al 2003).
  • A recent study shows that handwashing with soap by birth attendants and mothers significantly increased newborn survival rates by up to 44 per cent (Rhee et al 2008).
  • The lack of soap is not a significant barrier to handwashing – with the vast majority of even poor households having soap. Soap was present in 95 per cent of households in Uganda, 97 per cent of households in Kenya and 100 per cent of households in Peru (Curtis et al 2009).
  • Water alone is not enough, and soap is rarely used for handwashing. Laundry, bathing and washing dishes are seen as the priorities for soap use (GHD Planners Guide).
  • New studies suggest that handwashing promotion in schools can play a role in reducing absenteeism among primary school children. In China, for example, promotion and distribution of soap in primary schools resulted in 54 per cent fewer days of absence among students compared to schools without such an intervention (Bowen et al 2007)

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