More than 60,000 people join hands with WaterAid India to ask for improved hand hygiene among healthcare providers

This Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid India is calling on the Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India to take action to highlight the importance of hand hygiene for healthcare providers and provide an enabling environment for them to practice good hand hygiene.

38% of hospitals and clinics in low and middle-income countries around the world do not have regular access to water; even more do not have basic, private toilets and a way to wash hands with soap. In India, water and sanitation coverage in health facilities is estimated to be 72% and 59% respectively. This puts patients and healthcare workers at unacceptable risk of infection, including some of the most vulnerable members of society – new mothers and their newborns.

India has one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world — 167 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 28 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births. One in five deaths of newborn babies in the developing world are caused by infections with a strong link to dirty water, poor sanitation and unhygienic conditions.

To develop greater understanding about the status of water, sanitation and hygiene services in healthcare facilities, WaterAid India carried out assessments in 343 facilities in 12 districts across six states. For instance, in Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh) and Nizamabad (Telangana) districts, it was found that 19% of facilities did not have handwashing stations near every toilet and patient care areas, and 25% did not have soap and 87% lacked awareness materials on correct handwashing procedures.

Dr. Abhay Shukla, Public health specialist working with SATHI-CEHAT, Pune and associated with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan said:

“Ensuring handwashing among healthcare providers requires behavioural as well as systemic changes. Unless we address structural constraints and ensure provision of handwashing stations with adequate soap and water supply in all public healthcare facilities, seeking behavioural changes would not be enough. The government should prioritise provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services in all public health facilities, and ensure that it is sustainable by strengthening decentralised, participatory planning.”

Hand hygiene is a simple and cost-effective intervention that can play a critical role in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. A systematic review of evidence from 96 studies conducted in high income countries concluded that hand hygiene compliance rate was as low as 40% among health professionals.

Hand hygiene among health care providers is critical as these practices can reduce the transmission of diseases, prevent health care associated infections, address anti-microbial resistance and improve the patients’ health outcomes. WaterAid India is calling on the government to:

  • equip healthcare facilities at all levels with functional handwashing stations having soap and water at critical points of care
  • encourage appropriate hand hygiene behaviour among healthcare providers
  • display adequate information, education and communication (IEC) materials on handwashing steps and critical times for handwashing in health care facilities
  • ensure that all healthcare workers are trained to practice good hand hygiene
  • create mass awareness about the importance of hand hygiene
  • ensure that no new healthcare facilities are built without adequate, sustainable water and sanitation services

WaterAid India’s Director of Programmes & Policy Avinash Kumar said:

“Hand hygiene is critical to bring down maternal and infant mortality rates. It is unconscionable that our healthcare providers are not able to provide quality healthcare and patients are exposed to such risk of infection because of lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene services. We would like the government to prioritise allocation of budgets for provision of adequate facilities and ensure strict compliance of appropriate hand hygiene behaviours among healthcare providers at all levels.”

Through the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, world leaders have promised to ensure everyone everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation by 2030. India being a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene at every level of health services must become a priority.

To join WaterAid India’s campaign to highlight importance of and need for hand hygiene among healthcare providers for safe maternal, neonatal and child health and to sign our petition, please visit: www.wateraidindia.in/healthystart

Till now, 60,960 people have already signed up for the petition. The petition will then be delivered to Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. WaterAid India will aim to meet with the Minister to discuss the appeal and ask for a clear road map for ensuring adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services in all healthcare facilities.

Toilet Facts

44 per cent of the total population in India still defecate in the open.

Open defecation causes chronic diarrhoea that leads to stunting.