Home Public Health Events World Hand Hygiene Day 2021! Seconds save lives–clean your hands!

World Hand Hygiene Day 2021! Seconds save lives–clean your hands!

by Public Health Update


The World Hand Hygiene Day aims to maintain global promotion, visibility and sustainability of hand hygiene in health care and to ‘bring people together’ in support of hand hygiene improvement around the world. The SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands global campaign was launched in 2009 and celebrated annually on 5 May.

World Hand Hygiene Day 2021, WHO calls on health care workers and facilities to achieve effective hand hygiene action at the point of care. The point of care refers to the place where three elements come together: the patient, the health care worker, and care or treatment involving contact with the patient or their surroundings. To be effective and prevent transmission of infectious microorganisms during health care delivery, hand hygiene should be performed when it is needed (at 5 specific moments) and in the most effective way (by using the right technique with readily available products) at the point of care. This can be achieved by using the WHO multimodal hand hygiene improvement strategy

Theme and Slogan

Campaign theme: Achieving hand hygiene at the point of care.

Slogan: Seconds save lives – clean your hands!

Campaign objectives

  • Aim to make hand hygiene a global priority, viewed as an essential life-saving action in the delivery of safe, quality care.
  • Make meaningful engagement with all health workers (and others) on hand hygiene and emphasize how their role plays a part in improving patient outcomes.
  • Inspire infection prevention and hand hygiene advocates in a range of clinical settings to support sustained behaviour change, aligning with the campaign call to action.
  • Ensure hand hygiene campaign recognition through continuity with a ‘SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands’ activity each year – driving ongoing engagement with the use of campaign resources available on WHO webpages.


  • Appropriate hand hygiene prevents up to 50% of avoidable infections acquired during health care delivery, including those affecting the health work force.
  • The WHO multimodal hand hygiene improvement strategy has proved to be highly effective, leading to a significant improvement in key hand hygiene indicators, a reduction in health care-associated infections (HAIs) and antimicrobial resistance, and substantially helping to stop outbreaks.
  • Appropriate hand hygiene reduces the risk on SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – infection among health workers.
  • Investing in hand hygiene yields huge returns. Implementation of hand hygiene policies can generate economic savings averaging 16 times the cost of their implementation.
  • Effective hand hygiene is not only a key measure for preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and for safe COVID-19 vaccination, but it also reduces the burden of health care-associated infections and the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
  • 1 in 4 health care facilities do not have basic water services, which means that 1.8 billion people currently lack basic water services at their health care facility, while 712 million have no running water at their health care facility.
  • 1 in 3 facilities lack hand hygiene facilities at the point of care.
  • Compliance with hand hygiene best practices is only around 9% during care of critically ill patients in low-income countries.
  • Levels of hand hygiene compliance for high-income countries rarely exceed 70%, calling for additional efforts to improve practices all over the world.
  • Globally, out of every 100 patients, 7 in developed and 15 in developing countries will acquire at least one HAI in acute care hospitals.
  • HAIs in adult intensive care units and neonatal infection rates are 2–3 and 3–20 times higher, respectively, in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
  • 8.9 million HAIs occur every year in acute and long-term care facilities in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA).
  • 1 million of the 4.1 million maternal and neonatal deaths annually worldwide may be related to unhygienic birthing practices, including lack of hand hygiene.

Calls to action:

Health workers can:

  • Follow evidence-based guidelines for hand hygiene.
  • Improve the prevention of infections in all health care settings throughout the patient’s care
  • journey by understanding and applying the WHO ‘My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene’. These are critical life-saving actions for every day of the year.
  • Improve IPC by championing hand hygiene best practice and educating all health workers on the importance of clean hands.

Health workers, when performing key interventions known to increase infection risks, can:

  • Practise hand hygiene whenever inserting, managing or removing an intravenous (IV) line, urinary catheter or endotracheal tube, as per the “My 5 Moments”.
  • Practise safe surgical care, for example, for a post-operative wound (WHO Moments 2 and 3 for Hand Hygiene).

Policy-makers can:

  • Support and advocate for greater monitoring of HAIs.
  • Improve the control of infections across all health services regulating and promoting hand hygiene action as per WHO recommendations.
  • Make information widely available on the impact of HAIs, and encourage all health workers to play their part.
  • Reward innovation and development of programmes to improve the knowledge, understanding and behaviour change related to hand hygiene best practice.

Patients and the general public can:

  • Talk to health workers about hand hygiene.
  • Visit the WHO website to see what they can do to support patient participation in hand hygiene best practice.

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