Clean Sweep


Research led by then-student Swapna Kumar (MS ’13) and overseen by Pavani Ram, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health, looked at the availability of soap for hand-washing around the world between 2010 and 2013. They found it varies drastically from country to country, and even within countries. Here’s why this data matters.

Soap Stats

  • Approximately 1.5 million children die each year from pneumonia or diarrhea.
  • Hand-washing with soap can reduce the risk of diarrhea by up to 47% and the risk of respiratory infections by 23%.
  • The study found that the percentage of households with soap and water available for hand-washing ranged from 96.4% (Serbia) to less than 1% (Ethiopia).
  • Within countries, poor households had significantly lower rates of soap and water for hand-washing compared with wealthier households. In Nepal, the rates ranged from 6% to 85%.

This systematic analysis—the first of its kind, examining data from 51 surveys of 47 countries—will allow policymakers and aid agencies to focus their efforts to boost hand-washing in places where children are most at risk from preventable infections.

The UB-led study was conducted with collaborators from UNICEF; the U.S. Agency for International Development; ICF International, Inc.; and International Business & Technical Consultants, Inc.