GHD: Handwashing reduces Infections by 50%, Diseases by 25%–Ikeazor
I am delighted to be in your midst today to commemorate the year 2021 Global Handwashing Day. The Global Handwashing Day is a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding on the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases, save lives and help us in meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and 6.
2. This year’s theme “Our Future is at hand-let’s Move Forward Together” could not be more apt and timely, considering the critical role hand hygiene plays in preventing and controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The theme is also a clarion call for the global community to work together and leverage lessons learned from response to COVID-19 to address the perennial neglect of hand hygiene as a major means of preventing disease transmission.
3. The first Global Handwashing Day was celebrated in the year 2008 and Nigerian joined the rest of the world to celebrate the day. Since then, the global community has been celebrating the day to mark the importance of preventing disease transmission through regular hand washing with soap.
4. It is a well-known that a large number of children die every year due to sanitation and hygiene enabled diseases. Globally, basic hand hygiene is often neglected, due to lack of access to handwashing facilities in key places. 40% of world’s population or 3 billion people do not have handwashing facilities with water and soap at home. More than 3.5 million children suffer from diarrheal diseases and this is not a small figure. Children, who are less than 5years old, are more prone to such diseases because of lack of knowledge about the importance of handwashing. The simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce infections by 50% and respiratory diseases by 25%. Hand washing saves lives.
5. However, many people tend to wash their hands with only water, which has proven ineffective in removing most germs. For many Nigerians, cleaning hands with soap and water is not really considered necessary, as soaps are mostly reserved for laundry and bathing. Let me use this opportunity to inform Nigerians that cleaning hands with soap and water removes germs much more effectively and significantly reduces the risk of disease transmission. Hands must be washed as much as practically possible and must be washed at critical moments such as after using the toilet, after coughing or sneezing, after cleaning a child who has gone to the toilet, before preparing food, before and after eating, and after playing with animals.
6. Addressing sanitation and hygiene challenges in the country is a necessary and worthwhile investment for government at all levels and is a way to significantly improve the health, education, social and economic status of the country. This is because, for every One Hundred naira (N100) spent improving sanitation and hygiene, between Three Hundred (N300) and Four Hundred Naira (N400) is saved which can be invested in health, education, social and economic development. Therefore, I want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians especially those in places of authority (public or private) to ensure adequate provision for Sanitation and Hygiene including handwashing facilities at all times.
7. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effect globally has further underscored the fact that access to Sanitation and Hygiene is not only a fundamental human right that safeguards public health and human dignity, but also an essential need when it comes to disease prevention. The pandemic provides an important reminder that hand hygiene is a fundamental component of health and safety. This year’s Global Handwashing Day therefore calls on countries to start planning for the future as they continue to strengthen their COVID-19 response and accelerate their pace for full recovery, a move that will reduce vulnerability to new outbreaks and help countries control diarrheal and respiratory diseases.
8. In recent times, the Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with stakeholders cutting across government at all levels, organized private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Academia, Development Partners etc., has taken steps to deliver adequate sanitation and hygiene services to the citizenry. These measures include capacity building, provision of handwashing facilities in schools, advocacy/sensitization, environmental health surveillance of public places, development of policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks, implementation of relevant programmes and projects, establishment of relevant regulatory and enforcement agencies etc. Despite these measures, the level of handwashing compliance in Nigeria remains abysmally low as behavioral changes are slow, thus fueling the spread of infectious diseases.
9. The choice of a school to commemorate this year’s global hand washing day is quite deliberate. This is because children including those at school are at particular risk of infections associated with poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Therefore, in marking this year’s event, we are carrying out proper hygiene education and handwashing promotion for schools in order to entrench the culture of proper handwashing in children and help prevent disease transmission, particularly diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading causes of death in children globally. The Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education, organized a training workshop and quiz competition on hand hygiene and sanitation for selected schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Wednesday, 13th October, 2021. Handwashing equipment and materials will also be presented to some schools during this event as a way to further encourage and promote hand hygiene.
10. The Global Handwashing Day is also expected to be marked in all the thirty-six (36) States and local governments areas across the country. To this end, I have requested the Sanitation Desks established by the Ministry in all the thirty-six (36) States and FCT to commemorate the day and embark on activities aimed at promoting good handwashing practices. Let me also use this forum to charge all State Governments, Commissioners of Environment, Local Government Chairmen/Councillors, Environmental Health Officers, NGOs, CBOs, FBOs, Development partners, organized private sector etc. across the country to actively step up their campaigns on hand washing as an effective means of preventing disease transmission.
11. Let me also reiterate that the Global Handwashing Day is more than just a day; hand hygiene should become an integral part of our everyday life. I therefore urge all media organizations to join the Federal Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders as partners in progress in propagating hand washing to the general public, children, families, communities, associations etc. as one of the measures to reduce our disease burden.
12. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me at this juncture thank the Federal Ministry of Education for partnering with the Ministry in marking this year’s Global Handwashing Day. I also commend and thank Procter and Gamble for donating handwashing items to be presented to some schools at this occasion.
13. Thank you for your attention and God bless you all.
Kidnapped School ChildrenYauri FGC Students, Kebbi
419 days 7 hours 11 minutes 26 seconds,
Baptist School Students, Kaduna
401 days 8 hours 52 minutes 51 seconds
Tegina Islamiya Pupils, Niger (Freed)
Report By: PRNigeria.com