Covid Response: 3 Billion People Lack Soap and Water at Home

A health worker sanitizes her hands before putting on a mask. Photo: WHO
A health worker sanitizes her hands before putting on a mask. Photo: WHO

Washing hands frequently and properly with soap and water is critical to preventing diseases. Yet, according to UNICEF, the latest global estimates find that 3 billion people lacked soap and water at home, 900 million children lacked soap and water at their school, and 40% 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.

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These regional pre-Covid hygiene profiles provide an overview of the latest available data from the WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme on basic hygiene services in households, schools, and healthcare facilities.

They provide a baseline for assessing the extent to which populations in each region have access to handwashing facilities with water and soap at home and at school, and water and soap or hand sanitizer at points of care and near the toilets at health care facilities.

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Rakesh Raman