BY PETER DURU
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in collaboration with the Benue state government have trained and taught over 10,000 Benue school pupils and children the importance and rudiments of hand washing.
This was made known by the Hygiene Education Officer of the Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASA, and Coordinator of 2017 edition of the Global Hand Washing Day Celebration themed “Our Hands Our Future”, Mr. John Egiri at the end of the celebration held at the LGEA Primary School Otukpa, Ogbadibo local government Area.
Egiri stated that the celebration which was held in schools in eight local government areas of the state including Tarka, Guma, Konshisha, Buruku, Obi, Oju, Katsina/Ala and Ogbadibo turned out a huge success.
He said, “We had targeted 2,000 children and pupils but we were able to reach over 10,000 children including the uninvited ones during the week long sensitization on hygiene and healthy living.
“In the course of the celebration the pupils and children demonstrated the act of hand washing and they were also taught and now know how to construct and use simple and foot operated tippy taps.”
The Hygiene Education Officer explained that the event was celebrated globally on October 15th. every year “but because of the strike action embarked upon by teachers it was moved forward to when primary school teachers in public schools called off their strike because of the importance of the programme.”
“The programme this year was spectacular and unique because of the participation and commitment of stakeholders and partners who gave their best to ensure its success.
“Moreover, the introduction of puppets and artists to demonstrate the importance of hand wash gave unique flavour to the campaign and it also caught the fancy of children and pupils who benefitted immensely from the advocacy.
“I must state that we have never recorded this amount of success like we did this year since we started the celebrations in the state.
“The theme of this year, Our Hands, Our Future was apt because for of the importance of hand washing to the health of every human being.
“I the course of the programme we exposed and taught the children the five critical points in hand washing which must be done with water and soap including, after using the toilet, before eating, after cleaning up children, before cooking food, and before feeding the children.”
In his speech at the grand finale, the General manager of Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASA, Mr. Ejembi Ella represented by the Hygiene Education Officer, noted that hand washing was the first line of defence against dangerous and life threatening diseases.
He urged the children to be ambassadors of hand washing in their school, homes and communities, “and you should always put what you have been taught into practice because the cleanliness of the hands is pivotal to healthy living.
“I therefore enjoin you all to take the task of teaching your parents, siblings and members of your communities the critical times of washing your hands and the import of sustaining the habit.
“Regular hand washing keeps us away from cold, diarrhea, meningitis, and many killer diseases so it is incumbent on everyone to develop and inculcate the habit of regular hand wash.
“I want to also plead with our teachers to ensure that the practice is drummed into the children and pupils in order to ensure that they live with the practice all their lives.
“And for parents they should also ensure that the habit of hand washing becomes a daily routine in their homes because of its immense benefits to the health of their entire families.
Ella who commended UNICEF for sponsoring the celebration also counseled children in all the eight local government areas visited stressing that the benefits of the advocacy on the lives of the children was unquantifiable.
The UNICEF WASH consultant in Benue state, Mr. Oscar Godwin in his speech urged the children, teachers and parents to make hand washing a critical part of value orientation at home and in schools.
The UNICEF representative who spoke in the respective local government areas stressed the need for regular hand washing among the generality of the people particularly children to avoid killer but avoidable diseases.
The WASH consultant in Obi and Ogbadibo local governments, Mr. Oche Okpe in his remark urged the children to shun all unhealthy practices that could expose them to avoidable diseases by regularly washing their hands.
The Deputy Chairman of Ogbadibo local government, like her counterpart in Oju and Katsina/Ala Mrs. Eugenia Ameh, appealed that hygiene education in schools should be prioritized to check the spread of avoidable diseases.
On his part, the Representative of Toilet Pride, Mr. Chukwuma Nnanna noted that the focus of the campaign was children who were agents of change that would drive the message farther in their homes and neighborhood.
Nnanna whose organisation demonstrated hand washing with puppets, playlets and theatre artists in the local governments visited urged stakeholders to sustain the hand washing programme to check the outbreak of killer diseases in rural communities.
Some of the pupils of the schools including, Mary Egbe, Leonard Eje and James Aboh all commended UNICEF and the state government for availing them the opportunity to learn more about hand washing.
The programme which brought together majority of the stakeholders and Civil Society Organization, CSOs in the sector was held in Tarka, Guma, Konshisha, Buruku, Obi, Oju, Katsina/Ala and Ogbadibo local government areas of the state from October 23rd. to November 1.
Among the CSOs and stakeholders that participated in the celebration included Yakpede Integrated and Environmental Saint Initiative, YIESI, Advocacy for Community Vision and Development, ACOVID.
Others are Environmental and Climate Change Ameriation Initistive, ECCAI, Genda and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative, GERI, Okaha Women and Children Development Orgsnisation, OWACDO, Angel Suppoort Foundation and the Local Government Hand Washing units in the eight local government councils.
Part of the high point of the celebration was the donation of hand washing equipment to two primary schools by EKAI to further drive home the message and success of the programme among the people.