On the World Hand Hygiene Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is highlighting the urgent need for countries in the South-East Asia Region and across the world to rigorously implement hand hygiene at the point of health care delivery, accelerating the progress made throughout the CoVid-19 response.
World Hand Hygiene Day is observed on the 5th of May every year aiming to promote the importance of hand hygiene in preventing the spread of infection and promoting good health.
The theme of this year’s event is ‘Accelerate action together’ which emphasizes the critical role that strong and engaged communities of health and care workers, policymakers and civil society organizations must play in galvanizing action to prevent infections and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in health care, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said on Friday.
Globally, inadequate hand hygiene at the point of care is a major contributor to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), she said.
Talking about HAIs, Singh said that they affect an estimated 15 out of every 100 patients in low- and middle-income countries, killing around 1 in every 10 of those affected.
“They are a major cause of AMR, which occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death,” she added.
Highlighting the importance of inadequate hand hygiene in health care, she said that it is primarily caused by limited awareness of and access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities.
“Globally, 1 in 8 health care facilities has no water service, one in 5 has no sanitation service, and one in 6 has no hand hygiene facilities at the points of care. At present, six countries of the Region ensure that at least 60 per cent of health care facilities provide basic WASH services,” she said.
She further informed that since 2016, all countries of the Region have implemented the Region’s Strategy for Patient Safety 2016-2025, which covers all core aspects of quality of care, patient safety and infection prevention and control (IPC).
The Strategy is aligned with the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030.
“Throughout the COVID-19 response, key stakeholders in the Region participated in an array of WHO-supported IPC training, as well as a Regional consultation aimed at aligning key interventions with the global patient safety action plan,” she said.
She also said that on World Hand Hygiene Day, WHO reiterates its commitment to ‘Accelerate action together’, in all countries of the Region, to implement hand hygiene at the point of health care delivery, for fewer HAIs, reduced AMR, and safer, more effective and efficient health care facilities for all.
The history of World Hand Hygiene Day can be traced back to the year 2009 when the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the first Global Patient Safety Challenge, which called for a worldwide commitment to improving the safety of healthcare workers and patients.
The WHO, as part of this initiative, introduced the concept of hand hygiene as a critical component of infection prevention and control and encouraged healthcare facilities to develop and implement comprehensive hand hygiene programs.