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Handwashing in Nigeria needs attention

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By Mercy Kelani

Only 4 percent of Nigerians practice proper hand hygiene in critical times.

The Federal Government has declared its interest in promoting the culture of hand washing, stating that at critical times only 4 percent of people in Nigeria observed this practice. The minister of water resources and sanitation, Joseph Utsev, disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja to celebrate the commemoration of the 2023 Global Handwashing Day, themed “Clean hands are within our reach”. Utsev stated that the practice of handwashing at critical times would help to reduce the spread of diseases.

Utsev added that the habit of cultivating the culture of handwashing helped in strengthening communities, promoting human health and curbing the wide-spread of preventable diseases. According to Ustev, the first line of defence is cultivating this habit to reduce the toll of pandemics and prevent outbreaks. This system can be attested to from the previous experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It is considered as a safe hygiene practice that can help avert medical emergencies.

There is a 99 percent knowledge of the practice in Nigeria.

Using the report from the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) in 2021, Utsev said that an abysmal 17 percent currently represents the national access to basic hygiene services in Nigeria. The director of the River Basin Operations and Inspectorate, John Ochigbo, who represented the minister, declared that only 8 percent of the population practised the culture of handwashing in the country, while there was 99 percent knowledge of the practice — which are yet to be taken into use.

He said that, according to the report, only eight percent of the population can demonstrate proper handwashing, using running water and soap, while 99 percent of the country’s population have high knowledge of this practice. He added that during critical or medical emergency times, only 4 percent have the tendency to practise the hygienic and proper washing of hands, using soap and water. This practice should be done before feeding others, handling food, eating, cooking, after playing and touching sick people or animals.

Roadmap implemented by the ministry for handwashing.

Also, the ministry has begun the implementation of the Hand Hygiene for All Roadmap, in order to reverse the trends of unhygienic practices. According to the ministry, this system structured a strategic direction to successfully achieve the practice of regular washing of hands and hand hygiene for all citizens of Nigeria. The implementation of this roadmap will aid the country’s objective to improve towards guaranteeing affordable and available product and services for the less privileged citizens.

Furthermore, the system will establish the culture of handwashing, using soap and running water for all people. The minister called for renewed commitment and dedication, while appreciating the efforts of the development partners and other stakeholders in building a good hygienic culture for all Nigerians. The celebration of the housing day on October 15 annually was aimed at promoting the understanding and awareness of the significance of hand hygiene, using soap as an affordable and effective measure to prevent the spread of disease.

Commitment to the provision of hand hygiene by governments.

Additionally, the distribution of handbills to create awareness, establishment of a sensitization rally concerning the significance of handwashing were the highlights of the day. The government was urged by UNICEF to ensure commitment to the provision of hand hygiene as an Investment in economic resilience and public health, and not as a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Five accelerators were identified, according to the report by the most recent joint UNICEF and WHO report, which can empower governments to speedily boost access to hand hygiene, such as innovation, consistent data, capacity building, smart public finance and good governance.

Related Link

UNICEF: Website

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