By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA–MINISTER of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, has lamented the abysmal low level of handwashing in Nigeria, saying the development was spreading infectious diseases in the country.
Ikeazor,who said the federal government through her ministry in collaboration with critical stakeholders cutting across government at all levels,organised private sector, non-governmental organisations among others took adequate measures in recent time to deliver adequate sanitation and hygiene services to the citizenry, regretted that the development has not had the expected impacts on the citizens.
She spoke,Friday,in Abuja,at an event held to commemorate the 2021 Global Handwashing Day.
Hear her:”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.”
Speaking further at the event with the theme:” “Our Future is at hand-let’s Move Forward Together”,the minister, who noted that the theme “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.”, said:”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. ”
Noting also that,”A large number of children die every year due to sanitation and hygiene enabled diseases”,Ikeazor said:”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.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,” she said.
While using the opportunity to inform Nigerians “that cleaning hands with soap and water removes germs much more effectively and significantly reduces the risk of disease transmission,” she said advised that:”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.”
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,” she said.
According to her,”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,” she said.
Recall that 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 in meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and 6.