‘Hand washing reduces child mortality from respiratory, water-borne diseases’

Hand washing campaign at a primary school in Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State... to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives

Hand washing campaign at a primary school in Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State… to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives

• UNICEF, Yakurr take hand-washing
campaign to C’River schools, residents

A recent activity by the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with Yakurr Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State has demonstrated how hand washing reduces child mortality from respiratory and water-borne diseases.

The campaign, initiated to reduce childhood mortality rates related respiratory and diarrhoea diseases by introducing simple behavioural changes – hand washing with soap, reached over 300 students from 30 schools and over one million residents.

This simple accessible action can, according to research, reduce the rate of mortality from these diseases to almost 25 and 50 per cent respectively.

Focal person for UNICEF in Yakurr LGA, Collins Njoku, told journalists: “Global Hand Washing Day (GHWD) 2015 is a success story in Yakurr LGA. Perhaps it is so because of European Union (EU)/UNICEF donor support. But because hand washing is a do- it-yourself simple preventive vaccine that saves lives, there is the need for the government to mainstream it in government calendar for public institutions and communities.
“Thus, there is the concern and burden of government and community ownership and sustainability which will close the identified gap between knowledge, attitude and practice of proper and effective hand washing among the people of Yakurr LGA and Cross River State and Nigeria at large.”

Njoku, who is the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) consultant, in an activity report of the GHWD celebration in Yakurr LGA of Cross River State, noted that the campaign has increased the capacity of the local council to deliver services and ensure that children and women have sustained and equitable access to improved sanitation and hygiene.

GHWD is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. It is a campaign meant to motivate and mobilize millions around the world to wash their hands with soap as a key approach to life – saving – disease – prevention. It is an opportunity to design, test and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with clean water and soap/ash at critical times.

The first Global Hand washing Day took place on 15th October 2008, the date appointed by the United Nation (UN) General Assembly in accordance with year 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation. The focus for GHWD inaugural year 2008 was school children. On this date, over 120 million children around the world washed their hands with water and soap in more than 70 countries.

Njoju said: “Thus as enshrined in Output 14, Activity 8 of Cross River State Q 4 Plan as above subsumed under the logframe of EU/UNICEF supported Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme (WSSSRP) II intervention in focal LGAs, GHWD 2015 with the theme: “Raise a Hand for Hygiene” was commemorated in Yakurr LGA of Cross River State (CRS) on Thursday October 15, 2015. Activities for the event lasted for four days from penultimate Monday October 12 to Thursday October 15 2015 with focus on school children, notably members of School Environmental Health Clubs (SEHCs).

Highlights of the event supported by UNICEF and Cross River State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (CRSRUWASSA) were school competition on the theme and hygiene songs by school children; proper and effective hand washing demonstrations by the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Department Staff of Yakurr Local Council in strategic public places such as the local government council, markets, motor parks, banks, major road junctions and the palace of the Obolopon of Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr LGA CRS; group hand washing participation by school children and teachers in 30 School Environment Health Club (SEHC) schools in the LGA, management and staff of Yakurr local government council, Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) secretary and school inspectors, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, members of the local government task group on sanitation (LTGS), market women and men, traditional rulers, bank staff and customers, okada riders, members of the national union of road transport workers (NURTW), Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) and WASHCOM Federation Executives; sensitization and campaign rally to create awareness on the GHWD; power point presentations on GHWD and Domains of Hygiene and media coverage and advocacy.

Thus, over 1000 participants drawn from schools, public and private sectors, CBOs, NGOs and FBOs participated in the event. With UNICEF support, messages were sent out to the public to promote and sustain effective hand washing, basic sanitation and good hygiene behaviour change through the collaborative effort of children, teachers, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), WASHCOMs, NGOs, FBOs, NYSC, State and Local Government officers and the Media. On October 15, 2015, the main GHWD, traffic was held to a standstill as school children, teachers and other participants marched in their numbers with placards, banners, school band and public address system through major roads of Ugep town, headquarter of Yakurr LGA, in a road walk, led by the WASH Department Coordinator and Yakurr LGA UNICEF WASH Consultant, in a motor cade.”

The highpoint of the event was individual and group hand raising for hygiene as a sign of affiliation and support for effective daily hand washing and other good hygiene practices.”

He said the goals of the GHWD were to: Foster and support a global and local culture of hand washing with clean water and soap/ash; shine a spotlight on the state of hand washing around the world; raise awareness about the benefits of hand washing with clean water and soap/ash; and strengthen and sustain Yakurr LGA wide Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.

Njoku said the objectives of the GHWD were to: create public awareness and ensure that over 2000 people receive targeted messages on the theme through the media and hand washing campaigns in strategic locations and public places; celebrate GHWD with 30 SEHCs, 300 members, 60 SEHC coordinators, 252 State and Local Government officers, 21 WASHCOM Federation Exco, 50 NYSC members, 20 WASH Staff, NGOs, FBOs, FRSC, Bank staff and customers, traditional rulers, the private sector and the media who become aware and practice effective hand washing as a good habit at critical times.

Other objectives, according to Njoku were to: provide 500 more hand washing facilities, institutional and public latrines; promote EU/UNICEF visibility; serve as advocacy for Government to institutionalize effective hand washing in government calendar for schools, public institutions and communities; and forge public and private partnerships in the provision of public toilets and hand washing facilities.

Njoku said further explained: “Over 1000 persons in Ugep Town were reached with different messages from school children through road show in major streets of Ugep. Such messages include ‘Say Yes to Hygiene’, ‘Say Yes to Hand Washing’ To Prevent Diseases, Always Wash Your Hands with Water and Soap’ ‘Wash Your Hands After Using the Toilet’ ‘Wash Your Hands Before and After Eating’ Say No to Open Defecation’, Have a Toilet and Use It’, ‘Provide Toilets for your Children’, ‘Stop Open Defecation’, `Help to Strengthen and Sustain Yakurr LGA ODF Status`, etc.

0ver 1000 persons in Yakurr LGA including the HOLGA, Deputy Leader, Obolopon of Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr LGA, the Programme Manager, CRS-RUWATSA and Branch Manager First Bank Ugep led the children in group hand washing demonstrations.

Over 1000 persons including state and LGA level officials, school children, teachers, CBOs, NGOs, and FBOs raised their hands for hygiene as a symbol of affiliation and as Hygiene Ambassadors
“Over one million people in Yakurr LGA were reached with targeted messages via radio and print media, messages broadcast on CRBC, Guardian and Chronicles Newspapers on GHWD 2015 theme and celebration.

UNICEF brand and visibility was highly promoted via large flex and standalone banners, posters and folders and mass media mobilized for enriched public advocacy using the opportunities provided by the celebration in Cross River state.
“30 SEHCs and 300 children participated in GHWD competition facilitated by the EU- Small Town Component in Yakurr and Calabar and interacted also with parents, teachers, state and LGA officials and the media on health issues being fostered by the EU/UNICEF WASH programme.

300 school children with their teachers, parents, LGA staff and media have an improved awareness and understanding of GHWD and UNICEF and its activities in the LGA, State, Nation and the world at large.
“UNICEF partnered with EU, Concern Universal, CRSRUWASSA, LGA WASH Department, school children, teachers, parents, FRSC, private sector, WASHCOMs, NGOs, FBOs and the media to successfully celebrate GHWD 2015.

On lessons learnt, he said: “No man is an island. Partnership and collaboration between and among program implementing partners is critical to achieving results and expected outcomes.

Competitions are part of life which tends to bring out the best in people. Everybody in the community and LGA has knowledge of hand washing and do wash hands daily. But what is lacking is the right attitude and habit of proper and effective hand washing with water and soap/ash, especially at critical times.
“UNICEF’s brand and visibility was limited. There were no customized event-specific UNICEF flyers, stickers, folders, posters, shirts, fez caps, exercise books, biros, towels and live show.

Global, national and special events such as GHWD, Maternal and Child Health Week (MCHW), World Toilet Day (WTD) and Day of the African Child (DAC) are veritable platforms for promoting UNICEF brand, visibility and partnership. Children, teachers and the media are powerful agents of change and a critical mass in promoting and sustaining UNICEF visibility and consciousness in the minds of the people.
“Peer influence is significant to seeing increased hand washing among school children. School Environmental Health Clubs (SEHCs) and weekly group hand washing activity in schools are effective in promoting good hygiene and basic sanitation behaviour change among school children.”

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