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Clean Hands Are Within Reach

Written by: Pam Platt, WaterStep Communications Specialist

Message of Global Handwashing Day matters everywhere, year-round


“If you want to go fast, go alone,” goes an African proverb. “If you want to go far, go together.”

That spirit inspires Global Handwashing Day, observed October 15 to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap and water, a lesson driven home during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic but no less critical now.

Universal hand hygiene – washing hands with soap and water – always matters. Always has. It is one of the simplest, most effective ways for people to stay healthy and stop the spread of germs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand hygiene:

  • Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by up to 40 percent.
  • Reduces the number of school days children miss because of gastrointestinal illness by up to 57 percent.
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by up to 58 percent.
  • Reduces respiratory illness, such as colds, in the general population by up to 21 percent.
WaterStep handwashing station like the ones being used in hospitals in DR Congo

It’s especially important to wash your hands at key times in the day:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

The five steps of handwashing bear repeating:

  • Wet your hands with safe, running water (warm or cold), turn off the water source, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. (Hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end, twice.)
  • Rinse your hands well under safe, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dry them.
  • If soap and safe water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

It can be difficult to “go together” in such efforts when you live in an underdeveloped country, whose residents are not assured of safe, running water and soap.

That’s why a foundational component of WaterStep’s holistic, safe-water outreach around the world includes empowering information and equipment that supports sanitation and hygiene practices, no matter where people live.

For instance, WaterStep has crafted a portable, sanitary, and resilient handwashing station for people in communities with no tap water. A plastic container filled with safe water created by the community with WaterStep chlorine- and bleach-making equipment, hangs from the top of a tripod, letting gravity provide the “running” part of the safe water, from spigots at the bottom of the container. Soap is provided at the station, too. Air drying is perfect for the users of the station.

The theme for this year’s Global Handwashing Day is “Clean Hands Are Within Reach” … even in places without assured conveniences like safe tap water.

For more information about hand hygiene, go to

For more information about WaterStep and its programs, go to  

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