Our work overseas

Hand washing around the world

The simple act of hand washing is the best protection we have against Covid-19.

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, clean hands save lives now more than ever. It's simple: hand washing is the best protection we have against Covid-19. Yet for billions, even this most basic of steps is out of reach.

But for those who do have access to soap and clean water, hand washing can be lifesaving. Here are ten stories of children around the world who are able to wash their hands.



Hamsatou Bolly, 13, gives her hands a good scrub at an IDP camp in Mopti. She fled her village in Bankass after it was attacked in 2019.

“I was terrified," she says. Now she lives in the IDP camp and spends many of her days at the UNICEF-supported child friendly space. “I like it here – I’m happy because there is no conflict here.”


Since the outbreak of Covid-19, UNICEF-trained community officers have taught children about hygiene and health. Armed with this newfound knowledge, Hamsatou goes door to door at the IDP camp to teach other children about hand washing with soap and the importance of social distancing.



Forty-five per cent of schools around the world lack hand washing facilities with water and soap, meaning more than 900 million schoolchildren are without access to soap and water. Over one third of schools worldwide and half of schools in the least developed countries have no place for children to wash their hands at all. 

These school kids in Côte d'Ivoire do have hand washing facilities – and don't they look happy about it!



Hand washing with soap is one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, as well as many other infectious diseases. It's far from a magic bullet – but it's still the best protection we have. This girl from Rabat Mirzaha Village in Afghanistan washes her hands regularly.



In total, only 3 out of 5 people worldwide have basic hand washing facilities, according to the latest data. Bajilio, 12, is one of those people and gives a thumbs-up to show how easy it is to wash hands.



"Mum says that if we touch the surfaces in the house with dirty hands, they will get contaminated and this will make us sick," says Jonathan

To protect her family from contracting coronavirus, Veronica, conducts regular talks with her children about Covid-19 and how to protect themselves



Xiaoyu washes her hands with soap during China's lockdown. Her teacher shared guidance about how to wash hands and protect against Covid-19 during a remote lesson. Now Xiaoyu washes her hands whenever she comes back inside after being outdoors.



A Rohingya girl washes her hands on Global Handwashing Day at a makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. As coronavirus spreads around the world, we are all vulnerable. But now with the first cases of Covid-19 being recorded in the world's largest refugee camp, refugee families and those forcibly displaced are at even greater risk.

In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, more than 854,000 Rohingya refugees live in bamboo and tarpaulin shelters, in precarious conditions. It is one of the largest and most densely populated refugee camps in the world. Many of them don't have access to soap and clean water.



In Vanuatu more than 70 per cent of school water supplies are not in good condition and 68 per cent of schools don’t have functional hand washing facilities. These children at Eton Centre School on Efate Island do have hand washing facilities at their school thanks to UNICEF.



Margot, 4, knows how important hand washing is – here she demonstrates at home in New York. On a weekday she would normally be at daycare, but Margot has been staying at home with her family since mid-March – along with more than one million other children – with the city largely shut down as a preventative measure against the further spread of coronavirus.



Francesca, 7, learns how to properly wash her hands, a key step to protect herself from Covid-19. Francesca is one of several migrant children visited by a UNICEF-supported health team in Rome.


"The main problem we face in this period is that migrants and refuges are not aware of the risks of Covid-19, and my job is to meet them and to explain what the virus is, how to protect themselves and the rules they have to follow in order to be safe,” says Abdoul Bassite.

Now more than ever, we can’t let the most vulnerable populations slip through the cracks.

UNICEF is on the ground in more than 190 countries, partnering with governments, health workers and other front-line responders to keep children healthy, safe and learning, no matter who they are or where they live. Covid-19 is one of the biggest fights in our history, yet, it is a fight that together we can win. Are you with us? 

We can bring urgent help to vulnerable refugee families, we just need your support.