Message of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, on the yearly campaign: “Save Lives: clean your hands”

Today, 5 May 2017, we mark the annual global campaign the “SAVE LIVES: Clean your hands”. This initiative led by WHO is aimed at promoting improvements in hand hygiene practices at the point of care with a view to reducing the burden of healthcare associated infections and spread of antimicrobial resistant agents. In fact, a paradigm shift has occurred in our world that cannot be reversed – multidrug resistant pathogens are here to stay – we need to manage these through infection prevention action. Limited information is available on the endemic burden of these infections in Africa, but a recent review reveals that their prevalence, ranging from 2.5 % to 14.8%, is up to twice as high as the average European prevalence (7.1%).

The theme of this year is “Fight antibiotic resistance – it’s in your hands”, and there are four key calls for action, aimed at different target audiences, namely:

- Health workers: “Clean your hands at the right times and stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.”

- Hospital senior management:“Lead a year-round Infection Prevention and Control programme to protect your patients from resistant infections.”

- Policy-makers: “Stop antibiotic resistance by making infection prevention and hand hygiene a national policy priority.”

- Infection Prevention and Control leaders: “Implement WHO’s Core Components for Infection Prevention and Control, including hand hygiene to prevent antibiotic resistance.”

Hand hygiene remains at the heart of effective Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) programmes to fight healthcare associated infections and antibiotic resistance. Annual campaigns are important ways of encouraging behavior change towards improving IPC best practices.In the recently issued WHO Guidelines on Core Components of IPC Programmes at the National and Acute Health Care Facility Level, hand hygiene is once again highlighted as the best example of successful implementation of these components with year-round commitment by many dedicated health workers.

Health facilities in every country in the African Region must take part in this global annual campaign to continue to promote hand hygiene, fight antibiotic resistance and commit to progressing towards adherence with all of the core components for IPC programmes.Every year more and more health facilities in the African Region have registered for the Save Lives: Clean Your Hands campaign.This year, we hope to see a big rise in these numbers.I encourage you to join me in promoting the campaign and to engage countries in our region to encourage all health facilities to sign up:

A number of useful resources is available in the WHO webpage:

I call upon health leaders, managers, health-care workers,consumer associations and similar bodiesin the African region to implement a true safety culture in which both patients, (and their relatives and visitors) and health-care workers work together towards strengthening infection prevention andcontrol, and promoting hand hygiene best practices. While the responsibility for hand hygiene in health facilities remains firmly with the health-care workers, patients should support them in improving hand hygiene by practicing and learning more about it.

I call upon Member States to take advantage of this year’s Hand hygiene campaign to awaken to the real threat of healthcare associated infections in our region and consolidate our efforts to improve hand hygiene within our health services. No action today means more health care associated infections tomorrow.

Thank you.