Nigeria wants collective action to promote hand washing culture

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By Tosin Kolade

The Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev, has called for collective action from all stakeholders to encourage the culture of handwashing in all parts of the country.

Utsev made this call at an event to commemorate the 2023 Global Handwashing Day with the theme, “Clean Hands are within our Reach” on Monday in Abuja.

According to him, the Federal Government has, over the years, demonstrated its commitment to the hygiene promotion with the development of the Nigeria Roadmap to Hand Hygiene for All, launched in 2022 to chart the path to a sustainable hand culture.

He said for people to be able to practice hand hygiene, they needed access to hand hygiene facilities that were conveniently located and easy to use, saying people were more likely to use them when available.

Utsev noted that investment in hygiene infrastructure and products must be accelerated in schools, homes, healthcare facilities and the public places.

“These facilities should also be adapted for the use of people with disabilities to ensure accessibility;  we should strive to eliminate existing disparities and inequalities in access as we promote effective hand washing through policy, programme and advocacy at all levels.

“Doing this will require sustained financing, the leadership of governments, support of the development and private sector partners, contribution of researchers as well as community-level action.

“On the part of government, there has been increased prioritisation of hygiene programming and deployment of needed resources,” he said.

Utsev, who was represented Mrs Elizabeth Ugoh, Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation in the ministry, said the inclusion of sanitation in the ministry’s nomenclature would solve the institutional loophole hindering the sector.

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He, however, pledged his commitment to drive lasting change in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, saying collective action from all stakeholders would raise the needed hand washing awareness.

The minister added that he would lead to the needed behavioral change for a healthy and economically-viable nation.

On his part, the representative of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Peters Ojonuba, said every child had a right to quality education, access to drinking water, and WASH services while at school.

He said good hygiene practices helped children to be healthy so they could attend classes to learn, adding that hand washing with soap under running water had been found to help reduce school absenteeism.

Ojonuba said his ministry had emphasised the child to child approach in promoting hygiene activities by ensuring that school children became hygiene agents of change anywhere they found themselves.

He urged all tiers of government to show high political will by improving budgetary provisions to address WASH issues and to ensure hand hygiene.

Dr Jane Bevan, UNICEF Chief of WASH, said there was need for behavior change on hand washing at critical times, saying this was the simplest and cost-effective ways to disease prevention.

Bevan noted that the hand hygiene roadmap had been incorporated into the Clean Nigeria Use the Toilet Campaign, urging young people to demand for hand washing facilities at all times.

More so, Mr Kolawole Banwo, WaterAid Nigeria representative, said the year’s theme, `’Clean Hands are within our Reach” was an expression of optimism that countries must have the necessary actions and investments to institutionalise hand washing.

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According to him, there is the need to rethink behavioral change approach to get more people to wash their hands, by moving from awareness to action.

“The disparity between knowledge and practice must be closed urgently because the results we want to achieve lies therein,” he said.

Banwo said the Nigeria Roadmap to Hand Hygiene for All must be comprehensively costed to reflect new funding realities, adding that subnational governments must be supported to develop easily implementable plans through ownership and participation.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the day, celebrated annually on October 15, is aimed at increasing awareness and understanding the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way for disease prevention.

Highlight of the event were quiz competition among school students, and a symbolic demonstration of effective hand washing among others. (NAN)

Edited by Chijioke Okoronkwo


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