Global Handwashing Day

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Global Handwashing Day
Global Handwashing Day (emblem).jpg
Logo used for Global Handwashing Day around the world. Shown in the image are water, soap, and hand.
Date 15 October
Next time 15 October 2017 (2017-10-15)
Frequency annual
First time 15 October 2008
Related to Menstrual hygiene day

Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is a campaign to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands with soap at critical moments throughout each day. It takes place on 15 October of each year. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of handwashing with soap as a key approach to disease prevention.[1]


Global Handwashing Day 2008 celebrations with celebrities at City Central School in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Dry run with kids at City Central School in Cagayan de Oro on how to wash hands with soap during Global Handwashing Day 2008 (Philippines)
Global handwashing day celebrations with the Mayor of Lusaka in Zambia
Global handwashing day celebrations in Indonesia in 2008

The campaign was initiated to reduce childhood mortality rates and related respiratory and diarrheal diseases by introducing simple behavioral changes, such as handwashing with soap. This simple, accessible action can, according to research, reduce the rate of mortality from these diseases by almost 25 and 50 per cent, respectively.[2]

Importance of handwashing[edit]

Main article: Handwashing

Hand washing with soap is extremely effective and the most inexpensive way to prevent diarrhea and acute respiratory infections (ARI).[3] Pneumonia, a major ARI, is the number one cause of mortality among children under five years old, taking the life of an estimated 1.8 million children per year. Diarrhea and pneumonia together account for almost 3.5 million child deaths annually.[4] Handwashing with soap is estimated to reduce incidents of diarrhea by 30% and respiratory infections by 21% in children under the age of five.[5]

It is important to turn handwashing into a habit. According to the official site, turning hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit was projected to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter.[6] Handwashing is usually integrated together with other sanitation interventions as part of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes.

GHD helps raise awareness of the importance of washing with soap, but it also makes it fun for children to get involved.[7]

Handwashing with soap may seem like a simple behavior, but it is rarely practiced globally. This is due both in part to lack of resources as well as it not being a habit.[8]

Peer influence is significant to seeing increased handwashing among students. In a study conducted in Kenya, researchers found that students were significantly more likely to wash their hands when another student is present.[9] Peer influence is only successful, however, when students know that handwashing is a desirable action.


The aims of Global Handwashing Day are to:[5]

  • Foster and support a general culture of handwashing with soap in all societies
  • Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country
  • Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.

Implementation and management[edit]

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) established Global Handwashing Day in 2008 as a way to promote a global and local vision of handwashing with soap.[5]

Steering Committee members of the PPPHW includes Colgate-Palmolive; FHI 360; The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Procter & Gamble; UNICEF; Unilever; University at Buffalo; USAID; the Water and Sanitation Programme at the World Bank; and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.[10]

Continued research on handwashing habits and practices is commissioned in conjunction with GHD. In 2011, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (SCA), sponsored a study to assess the handwashing habits of American and Canadian adults, finding that many were not using soap when washing their hands.[11]

Activities and celebrations[edit]

Each year, over 200 million people celebrate Global Handwashing Day.[12]


  • On 15 October 2014, Madhya Pradesh won the Guinness World Record for the most massive hand washing program.[13] There were 1,276,425 children in 51 different districts participating.[13]
  • Sometimes, groups choose to celebrate GHD on other dates than 15 October. In Ethiopia, 300 people celebrated Global Handwashing Day in Addis Ababa on November 1 in 2013.[14]
  • Pupils of Lupok Central Elementary School Guiuan Eastern Samar, Philippines during the Global Hand washing Day Celebration 2015
    On October 15, 2015 Lupok Central Elementary School, Guiuan Eastern Samar, Philippines celebrated the Global Hand washing day by doing the proper hand washing before starting classes.


Global Handwashing Day was initiated by the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW) in August 2008 at the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.[15] This means that the first Global Handwashing Day took place on 15 October 2008. The date was appointed by the UN General Assembly. The year 2008 was also the International Year of Sanitation.[16]


  • The focus for Global Handwashing Day’s inaugural year in 2008 was school children. In that year, the members pledged to get the maximum number of school children handwashing with soap in more than 70 countries. In India in 2008, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and his teammates joined an estimated 100 million schoolchildren around the country in lathering up for better health and hygiene as part of the first Global Handwashing Day.[17]
  • In 2014, Global Handwashing Day was used as an opportunity to fight Ebola.[18] In Nigeria, for example, Concern Universal and Carex sponsored events featuring singer Sunny Neji.[19]

Founding bodies[edit]

The founding bodies in 2008 included: FHI360 (a nonprofit human development organization based in the US),[20] US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Procter & Gamble, UNICEF, Unilever, World Bank Water & Sanitation Program and the United States Agency for International Development

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rai, Frank (12 August 2009). "Lae Marks Global Handwashing Day". Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea). Retrieved 24 July 2015 – via Newspaper Source - EBSCO. 
  2. ^ Curtis, Val; Cairncross, Sandy (May 2003). "Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 3 (5): 275–281. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(03)00606-6. PMID 12726975. 
  3. ^ "MOH Celebrates Global Handwashing Day". Arabia 2000. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2015 – via Newspaper Source - EBSCO. 
  4. ^ The State of the World’s Children 2008. Child Survival. UNICEF
  5. ^ a b c "Global Handwashing Day". MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. 61 (40): 821. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ Larsen, Linda (15 October 2013). "Today is Global Handwashing Day". Food Poisoning Bulletin. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  7. ^ Sawyer, Kem Knapp (10 October 2011). "Getting All Lathered Up". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 July 2015 – via Regional Business News - EBSCO. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Pickering, Amy J.; Blum, Annalise G.; Breiman, Robert F.; Ram, Pavani K.; Davis, Jennifer (27 March 2014). "Video Surveillance Captures Student Hand Hygiene Behavior, Reactivity to Observation, and Peer Influence in Kenyan Primary Schools". PLoS ONE. 9 (3): e92571. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092571. PMC 3968003Freely accessible. PMID 24676389. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "New Research Reveals Poor Handwashing Practices". Business Wire. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2015 – via Regional Business News - EBSCOhost. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "MP Creates World Record for Mass Handwashing Initiative; Guinness Book Acknowledges Feat". Hindustan Times. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  14. ^ Bizuwork, Demissew (4 November 2013). "Ethiopia Celebrates Global Handwashing Day". UNICEF Ethiopia. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing - Our History". The Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing. Retrieved 18 December 2015. 
  16. ^ "Global Handwashing Day". World Health Organization. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  17. ^ Walker, Angela (16 October 2008). "Star Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar Promotes Handwashing in India". UNICEF. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Handwashing One Important Tool in the Ebola Fight". UNICEF. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "Global Handwashing Day: Handwashing Saves Lives". Concern Universal Nigeria. Archived from the original on 11 May 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "fhi360 About Us". fhi360. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 

External links[edit]