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Hand washing saves lives and reduces transfer of disease - WHO

Germs are everywhere. We acquire germs by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and transmit it through our hands.

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), over 1.5 million children under five years old die each year of diarrhea as a result of poor hand washing. Aside from diarrhea, 80% of all infectious diseases are transmitted from person to person due to poor hand hygiene.


The problem on hand washing is not just prevalent among children in the communities but also among health practitioners. This is shown by the increasing incidence of health care associated infections (HCAI) in health facilities and hospitals worldwide.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that out of every 100 hospitalized patients, 7 patients in developed countries and 15 patients in developing countries will acquire HCAI due to poor hand washing practices. Patients may acquire HCAI during the process of care or while receiving treatment for medical or surgical conditions.

Though the global burden for HCAI remains unknown, studies affirmed that each year, hundreds of millions of patients are affected. “HCAI is a cross-cutting problem that no institution or country can claim to have solved yet,” said WHO.

To combat HCAI, the WHO spearheaded “Save Lives: Clean your Hands,” a call to action campaign last 5 May 2012. The campaign aims to galvanize action at the point of care and demonstrate that hand hygiene is the entrance door for reducing health care-associated infection and other communicable diseases in hospitals and in the communities.

On proper hand washing, the WHO recommended “hand washing moments” for health care workers. These include hand washing before touching a patient, before cleaning/aseptic procedures, after body fluid exposure/risk and after touching a patient and patient’s surroundings.

“While hand washing is considered the most cost-effective intervention to prevent diarrheal-related deaths, pneumonia and other infectious diseases, information education and communication (IEC) campaign on proper hand washing is also an important factor to increase the people’ awareness on hand washing,” said WHO.

The “Save Lives: Clean your Hands campaign is participated by 15,000 health-care facilities from 156 countries or a total of 10 million health care workers to implement hand hygiene best practices and to combat the persistent public health hazard of HCAI.