The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu on Thursday, urged Nigerians to practice the culture of hand washing with soap or ash at critical times to prevent outbreak of preventable diseases.
Adamu made the call at a media briefing in Abuja to commemorate the 2017 Global Hand Washing Day, slated for October 15 annually.
According to him, hand washing with soap has been proven to be an affordable and effective way to help achieve health, well being and productivity.
“Promoting hand washing doesn’t just mean making sure people have access to hygiene facilities, such as hand washing stations, it means that these facilities must be utilised.
“It is a choice that everyone can make after using the toilets, before cooking, after changing baby diapers, after touching pets, after a handshake amongst others.”
He said hand washing can be considered an affordable, accessible vaccine for sanitation and hygiene related diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever and pneumonia which are prevalent in our communities.
Adamu said that no fewer than 59,000 under-five children die annually from water and sanitation related diseases, saying this can be prevented by hand washing.
Quoting a recently released Nigerian WASH Diagnostic Report, the minister, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Musa Ibrahim, said it was saddening that 69 per cent of public health facilities lack access to basic functional hand hygiene station.
“It is also reported that 15 per cent of patients globally develop one or more infections in hospitals, strengthening our healthcare systems through good hygiene can help keep patients safe.”
Mr Tim Connel, Country Director, United Purpose, an NGO, said the group was partnering with PZ Cussons to drive the hand washing agenda, with a primary target of reducing diarrhea and other diseases.
Connel urged all Nigerians to engage in the simple act of hand washing, saying this act of becoming hygiene heroes would also promote health and wellbeing.
Dr Priscilla Achakpa, Country Director, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council said the global body was funding the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria programme to scale up sanitation in Benue and Cross River states.
Achakpa said the importance of hand washing and hygiene promotion cannot be over-emphasied as it was an avenue for disease prevention.
She mentioned that Menstrual Hygiene management and hand washing was critical to promoting wellbeing of women and girls in the country.