91 Million Urban Indians Lack Basic Handwashing Facilities At Home: UNICEF

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New Delhi: Around 91 million urban Indians lack basic handwashing facilities at home, UNICEF has said while noting that washing of hands with soap is critical in the fight against infectious diseases like COVID-19. In a statement released on the occasion on Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF said lack of handwashing with soap puts millions at increased risk to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

“In Central and South Asia, 22 per cent of people in urban areas, or 153 million people, lack access to handwashing. Nearly 50 per cent of urban Bangladeshis, or 29 million people; and 20 per cent of urban Indians or 91 million, lack basic handwashing facilities at home,” it said. Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative said as the pandemic continues to spread, it is important to remember that hand washing is no longer just an individual choice, it is a societal imperative.

“It is one of the most low-cost and highly effective measures you can take to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, and many other infections,” she said. “As schools consider the new parameters for reopening, we need to make sure that they continue to prioritize access to handwashing with soap, clean drinking water and safe sanitation for every child,” she added.

According to data provided by the child rights body only three out of five people worldwide have access to basic handwashing facilities. “Forty per cent of the world’s population, or three billion people, do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. Nearly three-quarters of the people in the least developed countries lack basic handwashing facilities at home,” UNICEF said.

“Forty-three per cent of schools lacked handwashing facility with water and soap affecting 818 million school-age children. In the least developed countries, seven out of 10 schools have no place for children to wash their hands with water and soap,” it said. The global child rights body further said that according to the Joint Monitoring Programme 2019, approximately 60 per cent of households in India have handwashing facilities with soap while the coverage in rural communities is lower.

Meanwhile, the National Sample Survey, 2019, reported that only 36 per cent of households in India washed their hands before eating and only 74 per cent cleaned their hands with soap after defecation, it added.

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