Chiamaka Abraham is a hygiene hero from Ikom LGA, Cross River state, South-south Nigeria. She attends Holy Trinity Academy and she is eight years old.
Chiamaka recently visited another school in her neighbourhood (PCN Primary School, Ikom) to talk about the importance of handwashing with soap or ash and the implication of not practicing handwashing at critical times. She demonstrated how to and supported in constructing a handwashing gallery for the school. She also demonstrated the steps to proper handwashing to the host pupils.
At the end of her discourse and demonstrations, she entertained questions from the school kids, and boldly advised the management of PCN Primary school to encourage good hygiene practices such as effective handwashing in the school.
On what motivates her, she informed the WASH unit staff that she would not want to contact germs that would lead to illness for her, making her parent spend money in the hospital or she dying as a result.
She further said, “I want to be part of the campaign to save other children’s lives. I want to advice all children to always wash their hands with soap and water, else they contact germs. If they contact germs, they will fall sick, spend money in the hospital or die.
“Today, I visited PCN primary school to tell them the importance of handwashing. I will continue to preach this message to all children around me, to save their lives and save mine too.”
Global Handwashing Day (October 15), together with its cousin World Toilet Day (November 19), brings attention to the most basic issues – hygiene and sanitation – that to our shame still account for two million child deaths a year.
A third of the world’s population – 2.4 billion people – live with poor sanitation and hygiene which, according to the World Bank, costs countries $260 billion annually.
Everyday, 2,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday due to diarrheal diseases, the vast majority caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. Diarrhea alone has killed far more young children in Nigeria over the last 12 months – around 150,000 – than Boko Haram’s slaughtering and the wars in Syria combined. Whilst we continue the daily search for even a hint of a resolution to these two brutal and complex conflicts, we already know the simple solution to tackling hygiene and sanitation-related diseases.
We know that handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal diseases – reducing incidence by up to 47% – and combined with improved sanitation, this is boosted to 68%. We know that in countries with the highest child mortality rates, as few as 1% of people wash their hands effectively and that the global average is only 19%.
Most frustratingly, effective tools and participatory methods are readily available, and it is estimated that interventions that promote handwashing could save close to a million lives.
So why is hygiene promotion not a focus of most development projects?
The relative lack of attention in both development and media circles is why we need days such as Global Handwashing Day and World Toilet Day to remind us of how simple the solutions to serious issues can be. They can also be used creatively to launch an outreach campaign or to celebrate behavior change achievements.
In Nigeria, United Purpose’s month-long Global Handwashing Day campaign brings together famous musicians, local leaders, and a soap company to empower thousands of school children as hygiene promoters called hygiene heores in communities already committed to improving sanitation.
United Purpose and PZ Cussons expanded the GHD celebration reach this year by holding events across 12 LGAs In Benue and Cross River states from October 4 to 9, 2018. These events were held in the United Purpose’s WASH programme LGAs for Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) and Community-led Health Improvement through Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (CHISHPIN).
Over 43,000 children participated in several events held from October 9 to 15, 2018.
Participating schools were pre-selected and participating kids from each school were Environmental Health Clubs (EHCs) members in their various schools. The EHCs are sanitation and hygiene clubs established in schools to enhance existing skills of participants especially school teachers in life skills-based hygiene education using child to child approach to bring about sustainable behavioural changes at school, family and community levels.
At the events, the theme of the 2018 Global Handwashing Day, “Clean Hands a Recipe for Health” was highlighted and the kids were engaged in fun handwashing themed activities and games which demonstrated the importance of handwashing with soap. At the conclusion of the events, over 2,000 kids from 12 local government areas became hygiene heroes who were equipped to take the handwashing message back to their various schools and communities.
On October 15, which was GHD proper, the Hygiene Heroes from the LGA events facilitated handwashing with soap at their various schools, thus enabling other kids in their school join in celebrating the global handwashing day. They re-enacted the setting up handwashing stations in their schools, the lessons learnt from the GHD celebration they attended, and they demonstrated the steps to proper handwashing. An estimated 36,000 schools’ kids from 240 primary schools were reached through this activity alone.
To ensure non-participating schools were not left out, some vibrant hygiene heroes were selected in each LGA to visit one or two other schools who did not participate in the GHD celebration to spread the handwashing message.
This event encouraged a peer-to-peer learning approach which saw the hygiene heroes having discussions with their peers in other schools about the importance of handwashing with soap. The hygiene heroes not only discussed but also demonstrated how to construct group handwashing stations using materials available locally and the proper way to wash hands. This approach is used because kids learn better when they listen to their peers.
For the fifth consecutive year, United Purpose and PZ Cussons has jointly facilitated Nigeria’s largest Global Handwashing Day (GHD) Campaign.
Global Handwashing Day, celebrated on October 15, 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.
With this message, United Purpose and PZ Cussons have engaged thousands of school children and reached millions of people in Nigeria and globally – and will continue to share the vitally important message of handwashing with soap with many more.
Courtesy: PAMACC News Agency