The benefits associated with improved hygiene are well established but it was not included in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets. Of the range of hygiene behaviours considered important for health, hand washing with soap is a top priority in all settings. 

Monitoring handwashing behaviour is difficult but the presence of soap and water at a designated place has been shown to be a robust proxy indicator. In collaboration with the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) team, a handwashing module was developed and has been included in major household surveys since 2009. Data from over 50 countries reveal that current levels of hand washing with soap are generally low. Disparities in access are found between different groups and by setting, including between urban and rural areas. As the number of countries with more than one survey increases, it will become possible to assess and compare trends over time.

Download the JMP handwashing dataset.