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October 2021

Global Handwashing Day 2021: hand hygiene for all

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Handwashing and Hand Hygiene

The theme for Global Handwashing Day 2021 is hand hygiene for all. The blog post below looks at why we here at Initial celebrate Global Handwashing Day every year. 

From saving lives to protecting the vulnerable, vaccines can be argued to be one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Despite fears that immunity might lessen over time, 196 countries and territories have now administered Coronavirus vaccines to slow the spread of COVID-19, and results show that the fully vaccinated are highly protected against severe infection, hospitalisation, and death.

Vaccinations alone, however, aren’t the solution. The Coronavirus pandemic is a stark reminder that the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, and other illnesses such as colds, influenza and norovirus, are also the simplest: wearing a mask and good hand hygiene. 

Whilst hand sanitisers offer an extra layer of hygiene, handwashing with soap is often considered the easiest, most effective, and affordable solution to hand hygiene. However, for some people, this simply isn’t true. During the pandemic, 2.3 billion people worldwide did not have access to a hand hygiene facility in their homes, leaving them at risk of COVID-19 and other infections because they couldn't wash their hands.

By 2030, it’s predicted that 78% of people will have access to handwashing facilities; but this still leaves approximately 1.9 billion people unable to do something most of us take for granted. Furthermore, many households that do have access to soap often use it for laundry, dishwashing, or bathing rather than handwashing. Without better education and greater access, that could be disastrous in the current pandemic climate.

Why do we celebrate Global Handwashing Day?

HubSpot Video

he first Global Handwashing Day (GHD) was launched in October 2008, reaching 120 million children in 73 countries across 5 continents. Since that introduction, Global Handwashing Day has gone from strength to strength. Last year, over 770 million people across 150 countries were involved. The main aim is simple – to annually highlight the importance of handwashing with soap.

Since 2008, GHD has continued to grow. Last year alone, Global Handwashing Day achieved the following success stories: 

Each year, there’s a different theme for Global Handwashing Day. This year, it’s Our future is at hand – let’s move forward together’. As we try to move beyond COVID-19, there's still much work needed for the current momentum to be sustained.

What are the benefits of handwashing? 

benefits of handwashing

Washing hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of illnesses that pose continuous challenges to our health and development. Poor hand hygiene can quickly spread germs around shared spaces via common touchpoints, such as door handles and stair rails.

By helping to stop outbreaks, handwashing remains an essential COVID-19 prevention measure while vaccines are being rolled out. Download our comprehensive guide to effective handwashing here:  

Download your handwashing guide

Global Hygiene Reset Report

As countries try to come to grips with the Coronavirus, how we face the threat of future outbreaks and pandemics is critical. Has the pandemic transformed our attitudes to cleanliness? What can businesses do to support rising hygiene expectations and protect their people?

Global Hygiene Reset Report from Initial Hygiene

Driven by fear and the unknown, the world witnessed an increase in handwashing during the early stages of the pandemic. As we move forward though, has anything changed?

Initial Hygiene recently examined the global shifts in societal behaviour for hygiene. A total of 20,000 respondents across 20 countries (including South Africa) took part in a survey that examined the impact of hygiene attitudes and practices on mental health and wellbeing, employee and organisational expectations, and hygiene responsibilities.

The Global Hygiene Reset report revealed that not only have attitudes shifted, but so have expectations. So much so, the benchmark of ‘good’ hygiene is far higher than it used to be.  

There’s overwhelming evidence that supports infection by airborne particles, but while the responsibility for clean air is seen to sit firmly with the venues/location, clean hands are regarded as an individual responsibility, with 64% of people washing their hands more frequently when in public indoor spaces. Interestingly, 66% of respondents intend to maintain these habits in the future, demonstrating a clear shift in behaviour due to the pandemic.

Regardless of whether handwashing facilities are available, 58% of respondents will use hand sanitiser in the future to protect against common viruses, demonstrating a more acute awareness of hand hygiene and how easily our hands can transmit germs.

In the workplace, this percentage increases, with 61% the global average of people working in shared spaces stating that theyre now likely to sanitise their hands regularly at work to manage hygiene risks. But this statistic varies greatly from country to country. For example, 85% of respondents in South Africa said they would sanitise their hands regularly to manage potential risks in a workplace environment.

The future is in your hands: 

teaching kids how to wash their hands in a covid and post covid-19 world

Around the world, handwashing practices have not increased equally. People living in low- and middle-income countries have continued to come up against barriers to handwashing during the pandemic.

Society needs to work together as we aim for universal access to safe handwashing facilities. There’s a tremendous need for collective action to address hand hygiene investments, policies and programs. Businesses must commit to promoting good handwashing practices among their workforces to enable a culture of hand hygiene.

Initial’s Global Hygiene Reset report shows that people feel hygiene must spearhead decisions made by individuals and businesses across the globe. A holistic approach to hygiene should become everyone’s business. Only then can move forward together.

Talk to us today about how Initial can improve hand hygiene in your environment.

Contact Initial hygiene about your handwashing requirements

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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The Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal from the experts in hygiene, Initial Hygiene South Africa

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Ensure that your organisation meets the legal requirements for the disposal of sanitary waste by learning what constitutes sanitary waste and how you should dispose of it, in this comprehensive guide on the subject.
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