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Opinion: Sustained Handwashing Behaviour In India – A Necessity During COVID-19 Pandemic

Global Handwashing Day 2020: The latest global estimates by UNICEF suggest that 3 billion people do not have access to soap and water at home

Opinion Sustained Handwashing Behaviour In India - A Necessity During COVID-19 Pandemic

New Delhi: “Wash your hands.” These are perhaps the three most important words we have heard since the COVID-19 breakout. Even in the pre-COVID times, hand washing has been considered a world-changing innovation in public health capable of significantly reducing disease burden globally. Soap is an ancient invention, but the connection between handwashing and health was made less than two centuries ago. Now that its effectiveness is no longer in question, the main focus is on how to make handwashing universal.

Also Read: Fighting COVID-19 With Hand Hygiene: Lack Of Water And Handwashing Infrastructure Pose Challenge For The Poor

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inadequate availability of water, sanitation, and hygiene results in 8,27,000 deaths in low- and middle-income countries each year. This represents 60 per cent of diarrhoeal deaths globally. Yet the availability of a proper handwashing facility with access to water and soap is a distant dream for many people. The latest global estimates by UNICEF suggest that 3 billion people do not have access to soap and water at home, over 800 million children do not have access to soap and water at school, and 32 per cent of health care facilities are not equipped to practise hand hygiene at points of care.

Also Read: Coronavirus Outbreak Explained: Experts Guide On “How To Wash Hands Properly” And Why It Is So Crucial

Evidence from research suggests that handwashing practices differ with location, caste, income categories, education, and gender. Data from the National Sample Survey 76th round report underlines the rural-urban divide with only 25.3 per cent of households washing hands with soap/detergent before a meal and 66.8 per cent after defecation as opposed to 56.0 per cent and 88.3 per cent in urban areas. The National Family Health Survey-4 findings further highlight the disparity in terms of caste, with only 38.4 per cent Scheduled Tribe and 51.9 per cent Scheduled Caste households having the availability of soap and water. The economic status of households is also an important determinant with only 24.3 per cent poorest households having access to soap and water compared to 93.3 per cent richest households. It also suggests higher access in households with better education (84.6 per cent) compared to households with no schooling (42.8 per cent). Another study by WaterAid India, 2017 found that women were more likely to wash their hands compared to men.

Also Read: Global Handwashing Day: Low-Cost ‘Social’ Robot Teaches Kerala Children Hygiene Lessons

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, most of us did not think very often or very deeply about handwashing. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic claiming more than 108,000 lives in India, good hand hygiene has become one of the most basic yet critical way of curbing transmission of disease. With unlock guidelines being rolled-out, offices and schools set to reopen soon, it is imperative to ensure handwashing facilities and its usage to prevent a spike in COVID cases. The COVID-19 threat presents a veiled opportunity to promote hand hygiene as default and sustainable behaviour. Sustained hand hygiene behaviour will not only prevent deaths due to pandemic but also check diarrhoeal diseases in the post-COVID world.

Also Read: Global Handwashing Day: Only 2 Out Of 10 Poor Households In India Use Soap, Survey

With the flagship programme- Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), India has successfully undertaken one of the largest behavioural change programmes in the world. Also, several non-government organizations (NGOs) and Community Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives have adopted multi-stakeholder and community-based approaches to contribute towards raising awareness, bridging the knowledge-practice gap, building capacity of local health workers, and behaviour change communication to improve hand hygiene practices.

Traditional approaches to behavioural change on hand hygiene have been limited to educational messages via awareness campaigns. However, research shows that education on health risks associated with poor hand hygiene does not necessarily lead to sustained behaviour change.

Also Read: Global Handwashing Day: A Lucknow Based Madrasa Has Benefits Of Handwashing In Its Curriculum

Multiple factors- emotions, habits, settings, infrastructure, poverty, attitude, and lack of will- prevent the conversion of hygiene-related knowledge into practice and practice into a habit. Programmes on hand hygiene need to appreciate the interplay between these factors and design an integrated approach rather than addressing it in isolation. Door-to-door campaigns, community meetings, emotional messaging, pledge, prayers, could be great platforms to promote the benefits of handwashing.

Despite the recent developments, behaviour change communication on promoting hand hygiene is still an evolving domain. It requires testing of innovative intervention models, robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to generate credible evidence, proof-of-concept studies. The silver lining is that many people like me, have now started to develop a new appreciation for handwashing, imagining with satisfaction and relief, a scene of microscopic zapping each time, we wash our hands with soap.

Also Read: Nearly 500 Million Indians Lack Handwashing Access, At High COVID-19 Risk: Study

Opinion: Sustained Handwashing Behaviour In India - A Necessity During COVID-19 Pandemic

Abhishek Sharma

Abhishek Sharma works as a Senior Manager- Research at Sambodhi Research and Communications Private Limited. He has worked extensively on numerous research projects covering a plethora of social and development issues including WASH, livelihoods, poverty, gender, maternal and child health, nutrition, infectious diseases, social awareness, education and renewable sources of energy. Co-author of the book “Is it Really Clean- Creating a WASH Index”,  he has introduced an innovative concept of creating a WASH index.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 23,96,06,768 and 48,82,051 have died; 20,13,42,617 are active cases and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 4:15 am.


3,40,37,592 16,862Cases
3,33,82,100 19,391Recovered
4,51,814 379Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,37,592 confirmed cases including 4,51,814 deaths. The number of active cases is 2,03,678 and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

65,86,280 2,384

33,157 6

64,13,418 2,343

1,39,705 35


48,29,944 9,246

96,421 1,802

47,06,856 10,952

26,667 96


29,82,399 310

9,607 43

29,34,870 347

37,922 6

Tamil Nadu

26,83,396 1,259

15,451 199

26,32,092 1,438

35,853 20

Andhra Pradesh

20,59,122 540

6,588 27

20,38,248 557

14,286 10

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,008 12

135 4

16,86,976 16


West Bengal

15,79,012 530

7,576 81

15,52,491 601

18,945 10


14,39,311 28

337 1

14,13,885 29



10,33,809 521

4,890 38

10,20,645 477

8,274 6


10,05,614 16

203 4

9,91,841 20



9,54,382 8

42 6

9,45,386 2



8,26,244 34

215 20

8,15,943 14


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,669 12

111 1

7,82,035 11



7,71,035 16

105 158


10,049 174


7,26,016 8

42 6

7,16,313 2



6,68,618 168

4,171 40

6,60,512 207

3,935 1


6,05,847 207

3,646 157

5,96,263 362

5,938 2


6,01,971 33

234 11

5,85,199 16

16,538 6


3,48,406 11

130 4

3,43,141 7



3,43,729 28

175 22

3,36,157 6


Jammu And Kashmir

3,30,834 93

935 11

3,25,473 104


Himachal Pradesh

2,21,113 182

1,387 5

2,16,011 173

3,715 4


1,77,356 68

679 27

1,73,342 39

3,335 2


1,27,259 49

647 4

1,24,763 53



1,22,432 69

1,444 15

1,19,099 84



1,10,719 901

13,601 435

96,744 1,332

374 4


84,295 4

110 8

83,369 12



82,734 87

892 31

80,411 115

1,431 3


65,295 10

32 5

64,443 15


Arunachal Pradesh

54,958 4

202 22

54,476 26



31,722 6

224 1

31,108 7



31,516 9

230 8

30,613 17



20,867 6

44 2

20,615 4


Dadra And Nagar Haveli


3 1

10,668 1




2 0



Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,640 3

10 1

7,501 2


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sinofresh

    December 11, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    A good job is done.
    Thanks for sharing your post.

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