What impact does poor hygiene have on health?
When people are denied access to clean water and decent toilets their hygiene and health suffer.
Poor hygiene means children get sick and miss school, adults can't work to support their families and patients are at risk in health centres. Whole communities miss out on opportunities to improve their lives.
In fact, many get no chance at life at all. Every two minutes a child under five dies from diarrhoeal diseases caused by lack of safe water, sanitation and poor hygiene practices.
So when a community gets clean water and decent toilets for the first time, they also have the power to change their hygiene habits. They can keep themselves and their environment clean, stay healthy and stop diseases spreading, and live dignified lives.
What do we mean when we talk about hygiene?
Hygiene can be hard to define as it covers so many behaviours, from personal hygiene like handwashing, food hygiene and menstrual hygiene, to the clean use of toilets and the safe use of water. Some groups of people are also more affected by poor hygiene – especially people with disabilities, young girls, women and babies.
Whether it's after going to the toilet, before eating or when you're preparing a meal, washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of disease.
Together with clean water and sanitation, good hygiene practices can transform people’s lives. But globally 1 in 4 people lack hand-washing facilities at home.
In many countries periods are still a huge taboo, meaning girls never learn how to manage them properly, and schools lack decent toilets and washing facilities – leading to many girls missing class when they’re on their period.
Around 70% of cases of diarrhoea are thought to be linked to poor food hygiene. So washing your hands before preparing or eating food, as well as cleaning equipment and ingredients, are all vital in stopping sickness spreading.
New mothers and their babies are especially vulnerable to disease, so the health centres they give birth in must be clean and safe environments. Yet around the world 1 in 6 health centres don’t have soap or water for handwashing.