Every October 15, millions of people come together to celebrate Global Handwashing Day through worldwide celebrations, events, and advocacy campaigns. Founded in 2008 by the Global Handwashing Partnership, Global Handwashing Day serves as a platform to raise awareness of and encourage action around handwashing with soap at a global, regional, and national level. In 2020, Global Handwashing Day reached over 1 billion people with handwashing messages.
The theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day is ‘Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together'. The unprecedented nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission. This year’s theme is a call to action to work as a collective and leverage lessons learned from the COVID-19 response to address the historic neglect of hand hygiene in investments, policies, and programs once and for all. As we enter a new normal, the future state of hand hygiene is in our hands.
This is evident by the fact that globally, 2.3 billion people still lack access to a basic handwashing facility. Although the pandemic led to an overall increase in handwashing rates, practices have not increased equally and people living in fragile settings or LMIC countries have continued to face barriers to handwashing during the pandemic. We must ensure that handwashing behaviours are supported and sustained for everyone, everywhere.
Global Handwashing Day serves as an opportunity for handwashing champions to take action to promote and sustain handwashing habits. Organisations and individuals can celebrate Global Handwashing Day by planning an event, participating in a digital campaign, or spreading the word about the importance of handwashing. Beyond Global Handwashing Day, communities should ensure handwashing stations with soap are accessible and appropriate, provide inclusive behaviour change programming, and advocate for and invest in handwashing to ensure hand hygiene for all.