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The Global Handwashing Partnership

Our History


1998-2000: Public-private handwashing programs

The Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP), formerly named the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), grew out of two large-scale handwashing programs. These programs demonstrated the untapped synergies of public-private sector collaboration, and the important role of consumer research and consumer-centered marketing in driving handwashing behavior change.

One of these projects, Programma Saniya, which was implemented in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, showed that careful consumer research at the outset of a handwashing promotion program results in better targeted program activities and therefore, greater levels of handwashing behavior change. The Ministry of Health and Community Groups promoted behavior change by encouraging mothers to wash their hands with water and soap after changing diapers. During a period of three years, the program averted 9,000 diarrheal episodes, 800 outpatient visits, and 100 deaths. These results were achieved at a cost of US$0.30 per participant.

The other project, the Central American Handwashing for Diarrheal Disease Prevention Program, demonstrated that working with a broad partnership of public and private sector stakeholders with a mutual interest in increasing handwashing with soap was an effective approach to promote hygiene behavior change on a large scale. The program also highlighted the need to focus on the one behavior with largest potential health impact—handwashing with soap—and to promote it with cost-effective, consumer-centered marketing. In collaboration with the public sector, four private companies launched handwashing campaigns in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador. The initiative sought to improve handwashing rates to reduce diarrheal disease in children under five. Analyses showed that the handwashing initiative prevented diarrhea for less than US$10 per case and resulted in an increased proportion of mothers understanding the importance and the benefits of handwashing with soap.

The evaluation of these programs piqued the interest of several organizations across the public and private sector, which ultimately led to the creation of the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing.

2001: The formation of the PPPHW

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing was officially created with members from multilateral organizations, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, private sector companies, and USAID in 2001.

2002-2007: Launch of PPPHW pilot programs

The PPPHW secured funding to pilot and collect lessons learned from handwashing promotion programs in Ghana, Senegal, and Peru. The PPPHW’s advocacy work and the results from these three pilot programs led to the establishment of local public-private partnerships in 12 additional countries: Benin, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. You can read about the lessons learned from these pilot projects at the USAID Hygiene Improvement Project website.

2008-Present: Focus on knowledge management and advocacy

In 2008, the PPPHW took a new direction, with a focus on knowledge sharing and advocacy activities in response to the needs in the global handwashing sector. The aim of these initiatives is to support handwashing practitioners and policymakers and to improve the integration of effective handwashing behavior change into international development programs. Learn more about what we do today here.

That same year, the PPPHW initiated the first Global Handwashing Day on October 15. On the first Global Handwashing Day, 120 million children washed their hands with soap, with celebrations in 73 countries across five continents. Ever since, Global Handwashing Day has been celebrated annually around the world. To read about how Global Handwashing Day was celebrated last year, or to learn how you can participate in your community, please visit the Global Handwashing Day website.

In 2012, the PPPHW held our first Handwashing Think Tank. The Think Tank series focuses on taking stock of new learning in handwashing with soap, building partnerships, identifying gaps, and articulating the way forward for handwashing behavior change. Learn more about subsequent Think Tanks here.

In 2014 and 2015, the PPPHW led a coalition supporting the inclusion of hygiene in the Sustainable Development Goals. We worked to articulate the importance of handwashing in the 2030 Agenda, and bring partners together for collective advocacy. With the inclusion of hygiene in Goal 6, Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, the PPPHW continued to advocate for progress towards this goal.

In January 2017, the partnership adopted a new name: The Global Handwashing Partnership.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic catapulted hand hygiene to the forefront of the world stage. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Handwashing Partnership launched its WASH Viruses Away advocacy campaign to galvanize hand hygiene efforts. The Global Handwashing Partnership also serves as a core partner of the UNICEF/WHO led Hand Hygiene for All Initiative, where it leads the initiative’s advocacy efforts and manages the initiative’s primary hub.

What We Do

Our work focuses on advocacy and knowledge leadership.

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