By Gabriel Ewepu, Abuja

AS Nigeria joins rest of the world to mark the 2022 Global Handwashing Day, a nonprofit organization, Sightsavers Nigeria, Friday, called on all levels of governments to provide better hygiene facilities to prevent and combat diseases.

This was contained in a statement issued by the organisation, where it stressed the need for improved accessibility to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, services by citizens.

The theme for 2022 Global Handwashing Day is ‘Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene’.

According to Sightsavers Nigeria, in low- and middle-income countries, over six in 10 people lack basic hand hygiene facilities at home. Four in 10 schools worldwide do not have basic hygiene services with water and soap, affecting 818 million students, of which 462 million attend schools with no facility at all.

In Nigeria, nine out of 10 schools have no place for children to wash their hands. One in three healthcare facilities worldwide does not have hand hygiene facilities at points of care where the patient, healthcare worker, and treatment involve contact with the patient. In Nigeria, this figure is four in five healthcare facilities.

Without clean water and soap, it is difficult to implement simple and effective public health actions that can prevent and manage debilitating NTDs: face-washing for trachoma, a disease which leads to painful, irreversible blindness; limb-washing for lymphatic filariasis, in which worms invade the lymph system and cause severe oedema, especially of the legs; wound-washing for rabies, where cleaning the lesion thoroughly after a dog-bite can decrease the chances of infection by the virus from canine saliva; and hand-washing for intestinal worms, whose eggs are ingested with food inappropriately manipulated and contaminated with soils.

It also made it known that in Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto and Yobe States, Sightsavers, jointly with CCSI, is conducting four interventions aimed at improving the attitudes of residents of these areas on improved hygiene, latrine use and general environmental cleanliness through a Social Behaviour Change project. The project targets men, women and school age children with appropriate messaging promoting handwashing with soap under running water and maintaining a clean environment as a way of eliminating NTDs from our communities.

The statement reads in part, “This Global Handwashing Day, international development organisation Sightsavers is calling on governments, organisations, donors, and communities to improve access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services as means to reducing and eventual elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

“As a result, Sightsavers has joined forces with the Federal Ministry of Health and other partners to promote the need for improving access to hygiene services.”

The statement quoting National Coordinator, Clean Nigeria Campaign, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Chizoma Opara, saying, “Hand hygiene is critical to our lives, we need to make hand washing a habit. Nigeria has developed a roadmap for hand hygiene, and we want to see increased intersectoral collaboration for hand hygiene.”

The Country Director, Sightsavers Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku said; “Increasing access to WASH services in our communities and prioritising delivery of services based on the needs of each community in the intervention units is key in improving hand hygiene practices and vital for the control and elimination of NTDs.”

Sightsavers Nigeria in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Water resources, focused on drawing attention to the importance of handwashing with handwashing demonstration and educating the public through posters, radio jingles and radio/TV talk shows.

However, the statement pointed that large inequalities in access to WASH continue to persist at least 2 billion people rely on water supplies that are unsafe; 673 million practice open defecation, and an estimated 3 billion people have no access to basic handwashing facilities to practice personal hygiene.

Meanwhile, Dr Teyil Wamyil Mshelia, Country Coordinator, Trachoma at Sightsavers, said: “Through strengthening collaboration between NTDs and WASH especially at the local government areas, we will begin to see more prioritised engagements and behaviour change leading to better hand hygiene and face washing and other hygiene management practices to reduce the impact diseases.”

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