3 in 5 Nigerians do not have basic handwashing facilities, UNICEF laments

Posted by News Express | 15 October 2021 | 487 times

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•Children washing hands under running tap



United Nations International Children Education Fund(UNICEF) has expressed worry over increasing downward trend in access to hand hygiene services in Nigeria where inadequate handwashing facilities at home have  left families and communities at the risk of many infectious diseases.


UNICEF, a statement to mark this year’s Global Handwashing Day, Friday, noted that handwashing practice was nose-diving in Nigeria as it was discovered that 21 per cent of Nigerians had access to basic handwashing facilities at home in 2018, compared to 16 per cent in 2019.


It added that although handwashing with soap was critical in the fight against infectious diseases, including COVID-19, only 16 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic handwashing facilities at home,  leaving families and communities at risk of many infectious diseases, with children particularly vulnerable.


“The downward trend in access to hand hygiene services in Nigeria is very worrying,” said Rushnan Murtaza, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria.


“Handwashing with soap and water may seem like a simple act, but it is lifesaving. It protects us from many diseases, including cholera. We must work together to make handwashing not only possible, but a habit. This will have a hugely positive impact for the health and well-being of all Nigerians,” Murtaza added.


Global data released by the world body showed that Nigeria ranked poorly in hand hygiene, prompting the call by Murtaza.


UNICEF said that the latest global estimates show that “3 in 10 people (or 2.3 billion people) do not have access to basic handwashing facilities with water and soap at home, including 670 million people without any facility at all, in the least developed countries, more than 6 in 10 people lack basic hand hygiene facilities at home.”


While noting that 4 in 10 schools worldwide do not have basic hygiene services with water and soap, affecting 818 million students, of which 462 million attend schools with no facility at all, UNICEF specifically said that in Nigeria, 9 out of 10 schools have no place for children to wash their hands.


Similarly, UNICEF said that 1 in 3 healthcare facilities worldwide does not have hand hygiene facilities at points of care where the patient, healthcare worker, and treatment involve contact with the patient; while in Nigeria, 4 in 5 healthcare facilities do not have hygiene facilities at points of care.


Globally, however, UNICEF said that the latest data show that some progress has been achieved since 2015. “For example, the global population with access to basic hand hygiene at home has increased from 5 billion to 5.5 billion, or from 67 per cent to 71 per cent.” But it warned that if current trends persist, 1.9 billion people will still not have access to basic hand hygiene by the end of the decade.


UNICEF’s WASH Director, Kelly Ann Naylor, also expressed concern that many rural communities were not cashing in on the opportunity presented by the fight against COVID-19 pandemic to improve handwashing.


 “Global response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic have created an unprecedented time for hand hygiene. Yet progress remains far too slow for the most vulnerable, underserved communities,” she said.


Hand hygiene cannot be viewed as a temporary provision to manage COVID-19. Further long-term investment in water, sanitation and hygiene can help prevent the next health crisis from coming. It also means fewer people falling ill with respiratory infections, fewer children dying from diarrheal diseases, and more pregnant mothers and newborns protected from preventable conditions like sepsis,” she added.


The world body, therefore, enjoined governments to see provision of hand hygiene as an investment in public health, not just a response to COVID-19 pandemic or other diseases.


“UNICEF urges governments to commit to providing hand hygiene, not as a temporary response to the pandemic, but as an investment in public health and economic resilience. The latest joint UNICEF and WHO report identifies five accelerators that can enable governments to rapidly scale up access to hand hygiene, including good governance, smart public finance, capacity building, consistent data, and innovation,” the statement concluded. 

Source: News Express

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