• Oct 15, 2021 . 2 min Read
  • UNICEF calls for more investment in WASH to prevent health crises

UNICEF calls for more investment in WASH to prevent health crises
Jeff Andrew Lule
Journalist @New Vision

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has called for more investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities to help prevent the next health crisis from coming.

The UNICEF WASH director, Kelly Ann Naylor, noted that the global response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic have created an unprecedented time for hand hygiene.

However, she stresses that the progress remains far too slow for the most vulnerable, underserved communities.

In his message to mark the Global Handwashing Day, Naylor stressed that; “Hand hygiene cannot be viewed as a temporary provision to manage COVID-19. Further long-term investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene can help prevent the next health crisis from coming. It also means fewer people falling ill with respiratory infections, fewer children dying from diarrheal diseases, and more pregnant mothers and newborns protected from preventable conditions like sepsis.”

Although handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against infectious diseases, including COVID-19, globally; around three in 10 people or 2.3 billion do not have handwashing facilities with water and soap available at home.

However, UNICEF says the situation is worst in the least developed countries, with over six in 10 people without access to basic hand hygiene.

In Uganda, access to handwashing with soap at the household level stands at 38% in rural areas in FY 2019/2020, following a 2% point increase from 36% in FY 2018/19 while coverage in urban areas increased to 61.1% from 40% during the same period, according to the Water and Environment Sector Performance Sector Report 2020.

The report also indicates that handwashing with soap coverage is highest in the Northern region, followed by West Nile, Central, Western, Eastern, and lowest in the Karamoja sub-region.

Despite the improvement in the handwashing coverage in schools by 16 percentage points from 42% reported last FY 2018/19 to 58% in FY2019/2020, progress remains slow.

The latest data show that some progress has been achieved since 2015.

For example, the global population with access to basic hand hygiene at home has increased from 5 billion to 5.5 billion, or from 67% to 71%.

But, UNICEF warns that if current trends persist, 1.9 billion people will still not have access to basic hand hygiene by the end of the decade.

In the least developed countries, more than six in 10 people lack basic hand hygiene facilities at home, while seven out of 10 schools have no place for children to wash their hands.

Statistics also indicate that one in three healthcare facilities worldwide do not have hand hygiene facilities at points of care where patients, healthcare workers, yet treatment involves contact with the patient.

The cost to provide hand hygiene in all homes in 46 of the world’s least-developed countries by 2030 is an estimated $11 b, which is estimated to be equal to 25% per capita per year.

The Global Handwashing Day is annually dedicated to advocating for handwashing with soap and water as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. 

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