Why hand washing shouldn’t end with Ebola scare
AT the height of the Ebola scare last year, hand washing became a routine among Nigerians , infact some people inspite of their level of education and financial standing got to know about hand sanitizers for the first time.
But today how many people still wash their hands regularly?
Findings from a survey carried out by UNICEF in six states, showed that an average of 82 per cent of people wash their hands before eating, while only 53 per cent of people wash their hands with soap after defecation. Alarmingly, only about 14 per cent of people wash their hands with soap after cleaning a child’s faeces.
This according to the organization poses a serious public-health risk. Every year Nigeria loses over 150,000 children from diarrhoea alone, largely caused by unsafe water, sanitation & hygiene practices. This is equivalent to a big passenger aircraft crashing every day.
Hand washing according to experts has a lot of health benefits and should be a regular thing.
“Regular hand washing with soap after using toilets, after changing children’s nappies and before eating or handling food saves more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. It can reduce deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter,” UNICEF Nigeria office said in a statement to mark this year’s global Handwashing Day.
Handwashing with soap was also an important line of defense against the spread of Ebola in Nigeria.
When Nigeria joined other countries to mark the global Handwashing Day last week, it was low key and without the usual fanfare that surrounds the celebration of such days in the country and this Daily Trust gathered was as a result of the absence of any scare of diseases like Ebola that once threatened the country.
Every October 15 is commemorated as Global Handwashing Day. It is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
The campaign was initiated to reduce childhood mortality rates related to respiratory and diarrhoea diseases by introducing simple behavioural changes such as handwashing with soap.
According to Dr Orode Doherty of Africare, hand washing is important at all times because it can prevent and reduce diseases, and also people prepare nutritious meals in a safe manner.
She said it is also important for women to wash their hands before breast feeding and maintain clean safety nutritional practice , focusing on the first 1000 days of their babes’ lives because that it is optimal time for brain to be nourished.
The 2015 UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report revealed that Nigeria has recorded practically no progress in the area of sanitation and hygiene. It was highlighted that since 1990, only 9 per cent of Nigerians have gained access to improved sanitation and only an estimated 12 per cent of the population have a handwashing facility with soap and water at home.
Similarly, around 68,000 children under the age of five die from diseases caused by the nation’s poor levels of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. This clearly shows the need to escalate and push sanitation and hygiene interventions and promotion up the development agenda.
In the wake of the Ebola crisis in Nigeria in 2013, virtually all public places, schools, banks, churches and motor parks had provision for water and soap for hand wash.
It got to the extent that people stop shaking hands while students, pupils and organisations were either forced to buy hand sanitizers or provided it for their visitors and customers.
But now that the Ebola scare is gone life has returned to business as usual as a check by Daily Trust shows that bank security staff that during the Ebola scare would go to any length to prevent someone from entering the bank now careless as concentration is now on security.
All the banks visited in Garki Area 3 part of Abuja no longer had provision for hand washing.
A visit round schools in the city centre and suburb also showed that the intensive hand washing campaign by schools also fizzle out after the Ebola scare was contained.
The POWA primary school, Area 11, where the former Minister of Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Ochekpe launched the 2014 hand washing campaign may have also jettisoned the practice as there were no visible sign of any hand washing equipment.
At Kubwa, Mrs Bola Ojo, the Principal, LEA Junior Secondary School, said that they don’t have any hand washing facility in the school that students can use.
At the LEA Primary School, Kubwa 2, there was no hand washing facilities even as Mr Tuta Stephen Dada, headmaster called on government and organisation to assist the school:
He appealed to the government and all relevant authorities to provide bows, taps and hand wash liquid to the school urgently, saying: “at least 20 bows would be enough in each class.”
At the Government Primary School, Nyanya, Chika, a primary three pupil told Daily Trust that she no longer washes her hand in school.
“Last year that we were told to bring soap and sanitizers to school and we had containers of water all over the place to wash our hands, but that is over now, we no longer wash our hands in school,” Chika said.
Just like Chika’s school, most other schools in the FCT have abandoned the handwashing culture and this a teacher in one of the schools who pledged anonymity said was because there was nothing to be scare of any longer.
At Kuje, the management of the Ibn Masud Islamic Primary School Kuje, said they provide handwashing facilities for their pupils but Daily Trust Health Desk did not see any facilities from the entrance till the administrative block.
Everyone should form the habit of washing their hands, as its benefits does not end with Ebola.
Even health care facilities often lack places for hand washing. Some 42 per cent of them in WHO’s Africa Region have no water source available within 500 meters