Volume 97, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



In 2009, a common set of questions addressing handwashing behavior was introduced into nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), providing large amounts of comparable data from numerous countries worldwide. The objective of this analysis is to describe global handwashing patterns using two proxy indicators for handwashing behavior from 51 DHS and MICS surveys conducted in 2010–2013: availability of soap anywhere in the dwelling and access to a handwashing place with soap and water. Data were also examined across geographic regions, wealth quintiles, and rural versus urban settings. We found large disparities for both indicators across regions, and even among countries within the same World Health Organization region. Within countries, households in lower wealth quintiles and in rural areas were less likely to have soap anywhere in the dwelling and at designated handwashing locations than households in higher wealth quintiles and urban areas. In addition, disparities existed among various geographic regions within countries. This analysis demonstrates the need to promote access to handwashing materials and placement at handwashing locations in the dwelling, particularly in poorer, rural areas where children are more vulnerable to handwashing-preventable syndromes such as pneumonia and diarrhea.

[open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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  • Received : 06 Jun 2016
  • Accepted : 17 Mar 2017
  • Published online : 12 Jun 2017

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