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94% Nigerians do not practice proper hand washing – UNICEF

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says 94 per cent Nigerians do not practice proper hand washing in the country.

Global Handwashing Day
Pupils during the Global Handwashing Day celebrations

Mr Oumar Doumbouya, a UNICEF representative, said this on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 in Abuja during the 2019 Global Hand washing Day Celebration with the theme: “Clean Hands for All’’ .

He said that the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in Nigeria was facing an interesting time with the recent declaration of state of emergency in the sector, the target to end open defecation by 2025 and government commitment’s to revitalise the sector.

“Hand washing has been proven by several studies to be the most cost-effective intervention in the prevention of communicable diseases. However, the facts and figures do not show that Nigeria is taking advantage of this.

“The finding from the 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) conducted by the Ministry of Water Resources and National Bureau of Statistics with support from UNICEF, revealed that only 21 per cent of households have access to basic hand hygiene services.

“The report also revealed that while only 12.5 per cent of households demonstrated proper hand washing with soap under running water.

“Also, only six per cent of all households in Nigeria are likely to practice proper hand washing with water and soap at critical times.

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“For the remaining estimated 94 per cent, who would be less likely to practice hand washing, their poor hygiene practice affects the rest of us, ‘’ he said.

He also noted that more than 100, 000 children under five  die each year due to diarrhea, of which 90 per cent were directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.

Doumbouya said that Nigeria has a national strategy for the promotion of hygiene, which prioritises hand washing before eating, after using the toilet, and after cleaning a child who defecated.

He said that the strategy focuses on the promotion of hygiene in three key contexts that include communities through households, schools working with teachers and school environmental health clubs and health facilities work in with facility health workers.

He said that the data above from the WASH-NORM showed that more needed to be done that regard.

“As Nigeria strives to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across in the section, UNICEF will continue to support government efforts to revitalise the WASH sector through various activities and projects.

“The private sector and academic institutions have key roles to play in using their platforms to promote safe hygiene messages and support WASH interventions in underserved communities.

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“I want to urge you all not to promote hand washing with soap under running water and join the campaign to end open defecation in Nigeria.

“But to also recruit others to do the same unit the remaining 94 per cent who are would be less likely to practice hand washing are reached until safe hygiene practices become a norm in our communities, ‘’he said.

Mrs Elizabeth Jeiyol, the National Coordinator, Water, Supply, Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) said the global hand washing day was critical to collective aspirations for a healthier society and to set the target for SDGs.

“On our part, we are committed to supporting the achievement of sustainable water supply and sanitation and hygiene for all people which is evident in our programmes in WASH sector across the globe and Nigeria.

“Individually, we have pivotal roles to play in keeping our communities clean and ensuring every person irrespective of gender or sexual orientation has access to handwashing facilities.

“By providing handing washing to all. We have reduced the risk for diseases and extensions provide for a robust economy.

“It is our hope that as we mark the 2019 Global Hand washing Day the commemoration will serve as a breeding ground for more creative ways to pass the intention of this day to address the challenges of sanitation and hygiene in our communities,’’ she said.

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Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria said 110 million people in Nigeria lacked access to hand washing facilities which implied many Nigerians were  unable to perform this hygiene behaviour at critical times.

Aniagolu-Okoye said the 2019 theme stressed the need to be inclusive and leave no one behind, a call that aligned with the central theme of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

“It requests that everyone everywhere has access to hand washing facilities with soap regardless of age, gender, location, social or financial status.

“A lack of inclusive hand washing facilities and ineffective hand washing promote programmes are some of the drivers of inequalities and place individuals at higher risk of contracting diseases with adverse impact on their health, education and livelihoods.

“To accelerate to 2030 and leave no one behind, it is crucial that we move quickly from policy to practice. Ensuring access to hygiene facilities is necessary but not the only step.

“We are calling on caregivers, healthcare workers and indeed every member of the society to practice handwashing at critical times, ‘’she said.

The interschool quiz competition was organised for primary school pupils in the 62 local government areas with 3,268 participants to mark the 2019 Global Handwashing Day.

River state emerged in the first position, followed by Kaduna and the Bauchi.

By Joan Nwagwu

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