Resource Centre Hand washing with soap

  • Each year, because of the prevalence of diarrhoea and pneumonia, more than 3.5 million of our world’s children don’t live to celebrate their fifth birthday. Hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs: if widely practiced, hand washing with soap could prevent one million of those unnecessary deaths

  • Diarrhoea kills one child every 30 seconds! The number of children who die from diarrhoea every year is the rough equivalent of a full jumbo jet crashing every 2 hours with no survivors.

  • Acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia are the primary cause of child deaths while diarrhoea is the second-most common cause of death among children under five.

  • Over 272 million school days are lost each year due to absenteeism related to diarrhoeal disease.

  • Children from the poorest (20%) of households are more than 10 times as likely to die as children compared to those from the richest 20% of households.

  • One gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses and one million bacteria - that's more living creatures than there are people living in Jakarta.

  • Diarrhoea kills more children each year than AIDS, Malaria and Measles combined!

  • Hand washing with soap is an effective intervention to reduce child mortality and morbidity with its subsequent impact on overall health and school attendance. Yet, hand washing with soap at critical times (before handling food and after using the toilet) is low – ranging from zero to 34%.

  • The challenge is to make hand washing with soap a daily habit and an accepted social norm, promoting healthy living and ensuing kids’ health worldwide. Programs that do hygiene promotion in schools are therefore vital to raise awareness and instil healthy habits.

  • Hand washing with soap can cut diarrhoea-related deaths by almost half (44%) and acute respiratory infections by at least one quarter (23%).

  • Hand washing with soap can also reduce skin infections, eye infections, intestinal worms, swine flu, pandemic flu, SARS, avian flu, trachoma, parasitic worm infections, neonatal mortality, school absenteeism, sickness in AIDS patients and chronic malnutrition.

  • Hand washing with soap by birth attendants and mothers, significantly increased new born survival rates by up to 44%.

  • Hand washing with soap is definitely one of the most cost effective public health interventions to prevent diarrhoea-related diseases and death. A $3.35 investment in hand washing brings the same benefit as an $11 investment in latrine promotion and a $223 investment in household water supply12 connection. Hand washing with soap prevents diseases in a more cost-effective way than any single vaccine.

  • The Lifebuoy Clinical trial conducted in 2007 indicated that Lifebuoy soap, used as recommended in the 'Lifebuoy Way', can reduces episodes of diarrhoea in targeted children by 25% and reduce days off school due to illness by 40%.

  • If you want to improve the health status of your family members you know what to promote in your household – hand washing with Lifebuoy soap. Contact us for more hygiene information


    1. Global Hand washing Day Planner’s Guide: Second Edition
    2. Val Curtis. Talking dirty: how to save a million lives. International Journal of Environmental Health Research 13, S73 – S79 (June 2003). London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
    3. Prüss-Üstün A, Bos R, Gore F, Bartram J. Safer water, better health: costs, benefits and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health. World Health Organization, Geneva, 2008 & The State of the World’s Children 2008. Child Survival. UNICEF
    4. Hand washing Handbook. World Bank, BNWP, WSP.
    5. Val Curtis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
    7. Lisa Danquah, Dr Val Curtis & Dr Robert Aunger. A review of the results of formative research studies from ten countries. LSHTM/Hygiene Centre for Unilever PLC
    8. Cairncross, S. Valdmanis V. 2006. Water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion. Chapter 41. In Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. Second Edition. Edt. Jameson et al 2006. The World Bank. Washington DC: National Institutes of Health
    9. Lorna Fewtrell, Kaufmann R.B., Kay D., Enanoria W., Haller L., and Colford, J.M.C., Jr. 2005. “Water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions to reduce diarrhoea in less developed countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Vol. 5, Issue 1: 42-52. Also, Curtis, V. and Cairncross, S. 2003. “Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: A systematic review.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Vol. 3, May 2003, pp 275-281
    10. Val Curtis. London School of Hygiene and Tropica Medicine
    11. Maternal and Birth Attendant Hand Washing and Neonatal Mortality in Southern Nepal Victor Rhee, MHS; Luke C. Mullany, PhD; Subarna K. Khatry, MBBS; Joanne Katz, ScD; Steven C. LeClerq, MPH; Gary L. Darmstadt, MD; James M. Tielsch, PhD
    12. Disease Control Priorities for Developing Countries (2nd Edition). World Bank/OUP, 2006
    14. Lifebuoy Clinical Trial, 2007