WaterAid Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, on Thursday in Abuja, inaugurated the “Hygiene for Health” campaign to encourage Nigerians to promote sustained investment for hand washing in the country.
Ms. Evelyn Mere, WaterAid Country Director, said the campaign was also targeted at increasing access to a functional, safe, inclusive, equitable and gender-responsive water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Mere said the campaign was part of activities to commemorate the 2021 Global Handwashing Day, which emphasised collective action to ensure that hygiene services became a reality.
She said the recent COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene access to curtail its spread.
Mere said that handwashing with soap or ash was a simple but critical way to ensure overall health.
“Yet in Nigeria, 167 million people lack access to handwashing facilities with soap, low access to these basic services continue to pose a huge threat to public life and the economy.
“It goes without saying that a well-equipped and resilient health system is a must, good hygiene is a highly cost-effective public health measure and a cornerstone of safe and effective health care.
“It is crucial to protecting against a range of diseases and stopping the transmission of COVID-19,” she said.
Mere said that in spite of the importance of good hygiene, only about one in three health facilities had hand hygiene stations with soap and water at points of care.
She added that a quarter of the facilities had hand hygiene stations with soap and water and toilets.
Mere said that as the country continued to seek responses to COVID-19, it must recognise that its future was in its hands.
She noted that investing in water, sanitation and hygiene was not only critical in ending the pandemic, but in bringing the economy back to life in productivity and sustainable development.
Mr Job Ominyi, UNICEF WASH Specialist, said the availability of functional water, sanitation and hygiene services was an indispensable foundation for infection control and prevention.
Ominyi noted that UNICEF realised the huge challenge the country was facing in ensuring adequate WASH in healthcare centres, hence the establishment of the technical working group on WASH in health care facilities.
Dr Chris Elemuwa, Head, Health Services, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, said the agency was working to see that crucial WASH services were not abandoned.
Elemuwa said the world was “caught napping” with COVID, noting that states must come together to prioritise water, sanitation and hygiene in all health care facilities.
Mr Peters Ojonuba, of School Health Programme, Federal Ministry of Education, said there was need for multi-sectoral partnerships at all levels.
According to Ojonuba, infection control cannot be left in the hands of just one agency or ministry.