Nigeria joins other countries to observe global handwashing day

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By Abba – Eku Onyeka

Abuja

Arrangements has been concluded for Nigeria to join other countries to observe the annual Hand Washing Day on October 15, 2020, with the theme: Hand Hygiene for All, the Honorable Minister, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Alh Suleiman Adamu FSNE, FAEng has informed.

The Minister passed the information at a recent media briefing to that effect in Abuja.

Throwing  lights on the event, the Minister said October 15 was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as a day dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap which, according to him is an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases, adding that the day would build the culture of hand washing with soap.

The theme, according to him was aligned to the recent Hand Hygiene Global Initiative launched by World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to control COVID-19, even as he added that the initiative was aimed at ensuring lasting infrastructure beyond the pandemic and putting in place policies, institutional environment, handwashing facilities and scaling up successful evidence-based approaches for a sustained hand hygiene practice.

Handwashing with soap, he went on was critical to disease prevention and allows children to learn and grow and strengthen communities. “It is considered as an accessible ‘do-it-yourself’ vaccine for sanitation and hygiene related diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever and pneumonia which are prevalent in our communities. It is estimated to cut deaths from diarrhoea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by a quarter. A recent study showed that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%. Handwashing with soap also helps to ensure the sustenance of efforts to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) such as River Blindness, Lymphatic Filariasis, Onchocerciasis, Soil Transmitted Helminthes and Schistosomiasis,” he stated.

Adamu said that the 2019 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) report, national access to basic hygiene services indicated by availability of handwashing facility with water and soap was 16% with an estimated 167million people lacking access and disparity across locations and wealth quintiles, just as he added that schools and health care facilities, access to basic hygiene was 10% and 20% respectively while only 5% of public places such as markets and parks had basic hygiene facilities.

He said the figures signified a marked reduction in access to hygiene services compared to the 2018 WASHNORM survey. He therefore informed that a high knowledge of handwashing practices estimated at 81% was reported in the 2019 WASHNORM survey, adding that only 10% of the population can demonstrate proper handwashing with water and soap under running water while a minimal 5% are likely to practice proper handwashing with water and soap at critical times which, according to him includes after defecation, touching animals or sick persons, playing and before cooking, eating, handling food, or feeding others.

The National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) plans  a webinar tomorrow to that effect; a month long electronic and social media engagements on Radio, Television and Social Media platforms; awareness and sensitization visits to be carried out on Thursday, 15 October 2020 to designated markets and motor parks across the Area Councils in FCT to highlight effective handwashing techniques and distribute handwashing materials and the Honourable Ministers of Education, Health will also be participating  an early morning live TV programme on Thursday, 15 October.

Earlier in a welcome address, the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Didi Walson – Jack said that handwashing with soap was a lifeline to preventing many sanitation and hygiene related diseases. In the context of the COVID-19 situation, adding that it is one of the main non-pharmaceutical preventive measures. She therefore stated that the essence of commemorating global days such as the Global Handwashing Day was to create awareness, advocate for increased collaboration and partnership in the national effort to improve access to handwashing services and mobilize the populace on a sustainable behaviour change path. This is expected to provide the basis for our developmental efforts in building a healthy and virile nation.