Paul Obiajunwo, Port Harcourt
The United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) says in 2015, more than 300,000 children under the age of five died globally from diarrhoeal infections linked to poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation
UNICEF Chief Communication officer, Mrs. Doune Porter in a press statement sent to our correspondent said many of these deaths could have been prevented through the simple act of hand washing with soap.
She said with cholera spreading fast in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, and with a new outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen, it became necessary to urge children, families and communities to make washing hands with soap a habit to help prevent the spread of diseases.
She noted that every year, 1.4 million children are dying from largely preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.
She said UNICEF’s global head of water, sanitation and hygiene, Sanjay Wijesekera has warned that these are staggering numbers, but they could be greatly reduced by working with children and families to adopt a very straightforward solution
Porter said: “We know, for example, that hand washing with soap before meals and after using the toilet could reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal infections by 40 per cent. Survey revealed that only 12 per cent of households have hand washing facilities with soap or ash located at their latrines.
“But a recent survey conducted by UNICEF in Nigeria found that about 10 per cent of households did not know about the critical times to wash hands and could not demonstrate proper hand washing techniques.
“Proper hand washing practice also contributes to the healthy development of children by keeping them in school. Hand washing actually improves school attendance by reducing the spread of preventable diseases, which means children are not staying home because of illness.”
She added that in Haiti, “a country with poor water and sanitation infrastructure and a persistent cholera outbreak, suspected cholera cases and acute diarrhoea have increased sharply since the October 4 hurricane.”