Hand hygiene for all and building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19


This Global Handwashing Day is all about hand hygiene for all, and with COVID-19 impacting every community and country across the globe in different, challenging and ongoing ways, it is more important than ever to mark this day and prioritise proper handwashing in all that we do. 


Globally, 3 billion of the world’s population lack access to a basic handwashing facility. Approximately 75% of those who lack access to soap and water live in the world’s poorest countries and are among the most vulnerable groups. 


15th October 2020

The critical importance of inclusive WASH in achieving handwashing and hand hygiene for all


Today is also the day that acknowledges the critical role that rural women and girls play in all aspects of community life, International Day of Rural Women. This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is “Hand Hygiene for All”, and for Rural Women’s Day, “Rural Women and Girls Building Resilience.” Success in both is interlinked.


Handwashing for All… at critical times, in a critical time

Continue reading our #GHD & #RWD insights from Joanna Mott, GSI Advisor to Water for Women



A water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response


Making hand hygiene available and accessible to all is an important part of the COVID-19 response. That is why a water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response.


WASH addresses key behaviours and actions - such as hand washing at critical times - that people need to undertake to prevent person-to-person transmission of COVID-19, and is central to reducing transmission risks in key locations such as health care facilities (HCF)s, schools, markets, transit hubs, households and communities.


Water for Women partners moved quickly to respond to the pandemic in the 15 countries where they are operating. Through their Water for Women projects, they already had the right people in the right places – established and well-trained teams, strong networks and relationships with local governments and civil society across Asia and the Pacific.


Thanks to their rapid, collaborative and innovative responses, our partners and their experienced teams have been able to reach an estimated 3.5 million people with COVID-19 awareness, preparedness and response activities!


With additional support from Australia, through Partnerships for Recovery, our partners are now playing an important role in this ongoing fight. With its strong knowledge and learning culture, Water for Women will seek to learn and adapt quickly as our COVID-19 work progresses.

Below, for Global Handwashing Day, we share some of their stories from across the region, you can also find more stories via the button below or via our social platforms and the hashtag #WASHvsCOVID.





woman in wheelchair washes her hands with a red portable handwashing device

Overcoming the barriers: COVID-19 prevention in Bangladesh


“Now I have access and I can easily wash my hands to protect myself from Coronavirus.”

Sufia lives in Gaibandha district in Bangladesh, she is a 55 years old and happy to be able to access this handwashing device to protect her against COVID-19.

Sufia and her family have all been impacted by COVID-19. Sufia has had to stop her education classes and her sons labouring work has slowly dried up, which has gradually reduced their household income, making it harder to afford the basic necessities, such as soap.

With the help of a local Self Help Group (SHG), Sufia's challenges were brought to the attention of World Vision Bangladesh and she was provided with this handwashing device along with some useful materials on COVID-19 prevention. SHG leaders also demonstrated to Sufia how to wash her hands properly with soap using the device, and she was able to relay this to her family too.

This initiative forms part of World Vision Bangladesh's COVID-19 response, with support from the Australian Government through their Water for Women project.

Read Sufia's story



group of people washing their hands at a sink in a Health Care Facility

No one left behind: Building capacity of all in healthcare facilities in Myanmar


In five townships in the Ayeyarwaddy Region of Myanmar, WaterAid is promoting adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and infection prevention and control (IPC) as essential parts of providing basic health services, including for maternal, new-born and child health.

Safely managed WASH is critical in Health Care Facilities and communities, as well as in response to COVID-19.

WaterAid’s innovative TEACHClean program is improving health care systems and helping to keep mothers and babies safe and healthy. Delivered through a “training of trainers” approach, where staff such as nurses receive training who can then deliver the training to multiple hospital staff, TEACHClean is helping all healthcare workers and frontline staff understand and share best practice when it comes to hygiene, IPC and handwashing.

With support from Australia, through Water for Women, WaterAid’s work is supporting safer births in Myanmar and also helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Read more


Young Solomon Islands girl washes her hands with soap at school

Handwashing: a critical starting point for healthy communities and a first response to a crisis

The sudden and rapid onset of COVID-19 globally was met with great anxiety in Solomon Islands, where a weak and under-resourced health system, coupled with shortages of locally available personal protective equipment (PPE), created huge vulnerabilities.

At the same time, Tropical Cyclone Harold tore a path of destruction across the South Pacific, including in West Guadalcanal where our partners, Plan and Live & Learn’s New Times, New Targets (NTNT) project is focused.

Handwashing is a critical response to both crises, as this young lady demonstrates so well!

With support from Australia, and working collaboratively with Solomon Islands Government, the project teams got to work, distributing almost 300 water containers to households affected by TC Harold and providing over 4,250 COVID-19 information and guidance materials to over 4,360 people in 65 communities, 15 schools and 3 rural health centres!


Read more



More stories from across the region


a newborn baby wrapped up in blankets is asleep and wearing a hat with an important message

Handwashing is critical at every stage of life

A newborn baby's hat reminds mothers and caregivers to wash their hands before handling the baby

(Photo: WaterAid Cambodia)

Research is an important element of Water for Women, we aim to raise the bar in terms of gender and socially inclusive research, analysis, design and program delivery in WASH.

In Cambodia, our partner, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is partnering with WaterAid on their project, Changing Hygiene Around Maternal Priorities (CHAMP)

Hygiene interventions in Health Care Facilities are critical to the health and wellbeing of mothers, babies and healthcare staff. 

This picture is of a newborn wearing a hat provided by the midwives as part of the project's health facility based hand hygiene intervention.

The midwife hands over this hat to the mother after birth which has visible hand hygiene messaging meant to remind caregivers and visitors to wash their hands with soap prior to handling the baby.


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