Abuja - Thirteen per cent of global deaths of
children under five occur in Nigeria due to inadequate access to
sanitation, Michael Ojo, the Country Representative of Wateraid, an
international NGO, said on Tuesday.
According to him, nearly 100,000 children under the age of five die
in Nigeria every year and about 75,000 of these deaths can be traced to
the country’s poor access to sanitation and water.
"The heart breaking fact is that this dire situation can be avoided
and the number of deaths vastly reduced, if people have basic knowledge
of good hygiene and effective sanitation.
"The simple practice of washing hands with soap or ash at critical
times such as after using the toilet, before handling food, especially
poultry and other livestock and after cleaning up a child’s faeces
should be observed."
The call to action is compelling as our overall development and that of our children is dependent upon this behaviour change.
"The global handwashing campaign is a crusade not only aimed at
reducing infant mortality, but also the incidences of respiratory and
Ojo said that research had shown that in many developing countries,
it was not the lack of soap that was the barrier but rather the problem
was that soap was rarely used for hand washing.
"Creating lasting behaviour change and ensuring that handwashing
with soap becomes an ingrained habit and a social norm, need to be key
components of hygiene and sanitation programmes in Nigeria.This should not just be confined to rural areas where people are generally considered to be illiterate."
"Because even among the "elite" and highly educated, a good number
of people do not make it a practice to wash their hands after using the
toilet and other critical times.
In places like schools and hospitals, offices and hotels, meeting
rooms and places of worship where we shake hands, exchange money and
Our hands can either be channels for receiving greetings, warmth,
comfort, sustenance or they can become the unfortunate vectors of
disease causing germs.’’
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to change their behaviour towards washing their hands throughout the year and as a crucial part of everyday life rather
than just an Oct. 15 event.
On his part, Bisi Agberemi, the UNICEF Water and Sanitation
Specialist, said that handwashing had the potential of saving more lives
than any immunisation.
"Diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera can be minimised by the
simple act of hand washing; cholera is ravaging a lot of states in
"We can save 150,000 children every year; this occasion enables us
to re-dedicate ourselves to this call for good hygiene of hand washing
and it should be a collective effort by everyone,’’ Agberemi said.
In a remark, Ebele Okeke, the WASH Ambassador, described hand washing with soap as a `do-it-yourself vaccination’.
She urged everyone present to spread the message of hand washing as a
very effective and cheap way of disease prevention and ultimately
reduction of child mortality.