World Handwashing Day: Access to hygiene, sanitation, a step to disease prevention: Minister

Chief Sharon Ikeazor, the Minister of State, Environment, has said that access to sanitation and hygiene were critical steps in disease prevention and control, according to a statement by Mr Saghir el Mohammed, the Press Director of the ministry, on Thursday, in Abuja.

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 2021 Global Handwashing Day, I hereby affirm that access to sanitation and hygiene is not only a fundamental human right that safeguards public health and human dignity. It is also a critical step in disease prevention and control”, the statement quoted the minister as saying.

Ikeazor added that the world handwashing day, celebrated annually on Oct. 15, was a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases.

She said the efforts would save lives and help nations in meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) three and six.
“Addressing sanitation and hygiene challenges in the country is a necessary and a worthwhile investment for government at all levels.

“Therefore, I want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in authority, public and private to ensure adequate provision for sanitation and hygiene, including handwashing facilities,” she stated.
The minister noted that the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating global effects had provided an important reminder that hand hygiene was a fundamental component of health and safety.

She called on various countries to start planning for the future, as they continued strengthening their COVID-19 response, urging them to also accelerate their pace for full recovery, a move that would reduce vulnerability to new outbreaks and help them control diarrheal and respiratory diseases.

“Hand washing is a simple, cost-effective and, yet very impactful intervention to significantly improve the health, education, social and economic status of our country.

“The hand must be washed as much as practically possible. In this regard, the ministry, in collaboration with stakeholders, has over the years taken steps to deliver adequate sanitation and hygiene services to the citizenry.

“The effort, which include, capacity building, provision of handwashing facilities in schools, sensitisation, environmental health surveillance of public places, development of policies.

“Also, regulatory and legislative frameworks, implementation of relevant programmes and projects, as well as the establishment of relevant regulatory and enforcement agencies”, the minister said.

The ministry would be collaborating with stakeholders to mark this year’s Global Handwashing Day with various activities, such as the training of teachers and students on hand hygiene and sanitation in six unity schools in the FCT, in addition to a quiz competition for selected primary schools in the FCT.

“Also, community sensitisation on hygiene and sanitation practices for selected primary schools in FCT, as well as presentation of handwashing materials and equipment to schools”, Ikeazor said.