WaterAid in Nigeria have commemorated this year’s Global Handwashing Day in five primary and secondary schools in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory.Staff from WaterAid in Nigeria made handwashing presentations and demonstrations to the children in the schools; educating them on the importance of handwashing with soap and showing them the proper way to wash their hands. The hope is that these children, acting as agents of change, will take the good practices of hygiene learned back to their homes, peers and communities.
The active participation and involvement of children, along with culturally sensitive community-based interventions aim at ensuring sustained behavioural change.
Handwashing with soap – particularly at critical moments, including after using the toilet and before handling food – is a key cost effective and life-saving intervention preventing the spread of germs that cause diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia. Research in several developing countries illustrates that lack of soap is usually not the barrier – with the vast majority of even poor households having soap at home – rather, the problem is that soap is rarely used for handwashing.
The practice of handwashing with soap tops the international hygiene agenda on October 15, with the celebration of Global Handwashing Day (GHD). Since its inception in 2008 – which was designated as the International Year of Sanitation by the UN General Assembly – Global Handwashing Day has been echoing and reinforcing the call for improved hygiene practices worldwide.
Global Handwashing Day aims at increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases.
Children suffer disproportionately from diarrheal diseases – with more than 3.5 million children under five dying every year from diarrhoea and pneumonia-related diseases. The simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrheal rates among children under five by almost 50 per cent, and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent.
WaterAid in Nigeria’s Acting Country Representative, Grace Ezigbo, noted that “even though diarrhoea is preventable, it is now the leading cause of death in children under-five in Africa, adding that the incidence of diarrhoea, cholera and pneumonia is higher in areas where the inhabitants do not have access to safe water or maintain poor sanitation and hygiene conditions.” She said “it’s been proven that the washing of hands at critical times in conjunction with the elimination of open defecation through the use of latrines, safe water and other sanitary hygiene practices can significantly reduce the incidence of these water and sanitation-related diseases and prevent nine out of ten cases of diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.”
Global Handwashing Day was initiated in 2008 by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, and it is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe.
WaterAid is an international non-governmental organisation, with a mission to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities.