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The Global Handwashing Partnership

Raise your hand for hygiene: A global call for a hygiene indicator in the SDGs!

July 15, 2015

Hygiene—specifically handwashing with soap—is one of the most important interventions for human health and development and is a universal necessity. Fundamental to fighting undernutrition, reducing child mortality, overcoming antibiotic resistance, and advancing access to education, hygiene underpins the delivery of several other Sustainable Development Goals and ultimately advances gender equity, dignity, and human rights.

However, while hygiene is included alongside sanitation in Target 6.2 of the current draft of the Sustainable Development Goals, hygiene is neglected in the Sustainable Development Goals at the indicator level. This means that hygiene would not be measured globally, the target to improve hygiene would not be monitored, and the Sustainable Development Goals might not improve hygiene as much as they could.

Given the massive role that hygiene plays in multiple areas of development, nearly 100 international corporations, non-governmental organizations, and coalitions have signed a letter asking the United Nations Statistical Commission and key Member States involved in determining proposed indicators to address this oversight.

Are you an individual who wants to lend your support to hygiene? Sign our petition!

July 15, 2015

Dear Ambassador,

As organizations working to advance access to water, sanitation, and hygiene globally, we welcome the creation of the Inter-Agency Expert Group and the work underway to agree measures of progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We acknowledge the importance of a streamlined framework, but respectfully express our concern that in the midst of this complex process, the intention to measure hygiene, expressed in draft target 6.2, has been put at risk.

The agreement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 later this year is a significant opportunity to catalyze global action on the water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis, which costs thousands of lives every day, in addition to considerable resources of families and economies. However, achieving this Goal depends on a global-level commitment to monitoring the different components of the Goal. Goal 6 cannot be achieved if hygiene, a key component, were to be omitted from the list of indicators. We are concerned to hear that the proposals issued to the IAEG on Monday, 1st June 2015 for the water, sanitation, and hygiene goal included indicators for water and sanitation but not hygiene. Absence of a hygiene indicator would result in omission of hygiene in implementation and monitoring strategies for Goal 6.

Hygiene is one of the most important interventions for human health and development and it is a truly universal necessity. Hygiene is fundamental to reducing child mortality, fighting undernutrition, overcoming antibiotic resistance, and advancing access to education. Ultimately, hygiene advances gender equity, dignity, and human rights. It underpins the delivery of several other Sustainable Development Goals. Every high income country has made hygiene a priority in workplaces and health care facilities. Despite this, hygiene has received inadequate prioritization at a global level. Omitting hygiene from global measurement would inhibit the potential of the international community to achieve the full impact of Goal 6.

If hygiene is neglected in the Sustainable Development Goals at the indicator level this will be to the detriment of those populations who have the most to gain through global development— the poor and vulnerable. We recognize the imperative to establish a limited number of indicators; however, we also echo the recently issued zero draft call for the ambition of the targets to be maintained through this process. Excluding hygiene from systematic global-level measurement will impede our ability to fully realize the development potential associated with improving water and sanitation, as well as the delivery of cross-sector strategies. In the spirit of ‘leave no one behind’, excluding hygiene from the list of indicators is planning for failure.

Since 2009, indicators for handwashing with soap in the household – a key element of domestic hygiene – have been developed and refined. The major international household surveys which inform global monitoring now include a standard module in which survey teams check for the presence of soap and water at a handwashing station. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation in its 2015 report highlights the resulting data from 54 countries, and shows that current levels of handwashing with soap are low in many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Since the handwashing module is now standard in household surveys, monitoring of handwashing at regional and global levels will pose no additional burden on countries.

The omission of hygiene was a great loss to the Millennium Development Goals. We now have the opportunity to remedy this oversight, but instead we risk compounding it. We must ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated in the Post-2015 era. This means ensuring accurate measurement of progress towards both components of proposed Target 6.2, sanitation and hygiene.

We, the undersigned, sincerely believe that a global-level hygiene indicator is essential in pursuit of the bold mission set out in Target 6.2. We call upon you to speak up for hygiene and actively support reinstatement of a global-level hygiene indicator in the Sustainable Development Goal global-level indicator list.

Yours sincerely,


Agua Pura Para El Pueblo*

Logo ADN clear background
aci logo only


Benin WASH Alliance



logo CG


Centre d’Assistance Feminine (CAS)*

Centre for Health Enhancement and Social Development

Children Without Worms

CleanTheWorld-logo-CMYK_NO white-2



Community Development Forum (CODEF), Nepal*

Community Water and Sanitation Agency, Ghana


DAM Logo High Quality


Diorano WASH Network



EWP logo

Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness


French Water Partnership


Global Media Foundation



Global Soap Project

Global Water Challenge


Henry the Hand Logo


Improve International

International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene


irsp high res

Just a Drop Logo

Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET)


KohlerMiraLtd.Logo_Black 3


logo Morija*

New Restoration Plan, Malawi

oath LogoONGAWA_101_para material electrónico

         Oratechsolve logo  *

Pakistani Youth Parliament for Water


Polokwane Chemical Suppliers*

colour logo in jpeg format

Water Education for Teachers

Raleigh International




Samaritan's Purse

Sanergy Logo

Sanitation and Water Action*




Soapbox soaps

Society for Water and Sanitation, Nigeria



Sustainable Aid in Africa International

TAEEs Logo

Terre des hommes Lausanne


The Hunger Project

                 The Hygiene Foundation         *

SHARElogo no strapline

The Water Institute at UNC

Togolese Red Cross


Union des Amis Socio Culturels d’Action en Développement (UNASCAD)*



Unilever Logo

Village Water

Vision Africa Regional Network (VAREN)-Zambia


WASH Alliance Kenya_small

LOGO WASH Ambassador for Nigeria_updated

WASH United logo name + image

WaterAid logo colour (3)

water for people

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wherever the need

Women Environmental Programme – Nigeria

World Dynamic Action (WDA) – Haiti*

Youth Action for Development

Youth WASH Initiative Africa



*Indicates organizations not included on the initial letter

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