Friday, October 18, 2013

Wash your hands with soap to avoid diarrheal & cholera - Minister

Some children practicing hand washing with water and soap
From Patrick Baidoo, Koforidua

Millions of children in developing countries reportedly die every year from diarrheal, cholera and respiratory infections.

Children in Ghana are not spared from these diseases, since Information available indicate that one out of four Ghanaian children born in any particular year die before the age of five from diarrheal, cholera or any kind of respiratory disease.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the simple act of handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent more children from contracting such diseases and staying alive since diarrhoea still remains a second largest cause of under five mortality globally, with 600,000 children dying every year.

Hence, as Ghana joined the rest of the world on October 15 this year to commemorate Global Handwashing Day, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, UNICEF, Water Aid and other parts could not mince words but re – echo the need for people to continuously wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before touching food to create healthier communities and prevent deaths from the stated diseases. 

Thus to commemorate the 6th National Global Handwashing Day, at Jumapo – koforidua, the Eastern Regional Minister, Ms. Helen Adjoa Ntoso, urged Ghanaians to make hand-washing with soap and water their habit in order to avoid deaths from these diseases.

The well attended function which had development partners, traditional rulers, school children and members of the community, achieved its purpose of educating Ghanaians on the subject.

“The challenge now is to ensure that hand washing with soap and water at critical times does not become an annual ritual but a habit among the general populace,” she said.

Also, new figures from UNICEF say 1,400 children under the age of five still die every day from diarrheal disease caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. The simple art of washing the hands with soap and water by caregivers could reduce these deaths drastically.

Therefore, the Minister echoed the need for all persons to wash their hands always, especially after the toilet and before handling food, adding that, “washing with soap means disease causing pathogens are no match to the power in your hands.”

A survey done in Ghana suggests that out of the 24 per cent households that have a designated place for washing hands, only half percent of that percentage had soap and water available at those points at the time of the survey. 

In that regard, Ms. Ntoso pledged the government’s commitment to continue to make access to potable water and improved sanitation to the ordinary Ghanaians a priority.

That, she said would make water readily available to make it easier for everyone anywhere and whenever necessary to be able to get clean water to wash their hands with soap.

She commended the concerted efforts of all stakeholders including the Ghana Health Service, the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) and the media among others to sensitize communities to observe hygienic practices.

On his part, Mr. Gilbert Amoah Ayamgah, the Regional Director for the CWSA, urged all stakeholders to continue to support the hand washing programme in the country to achieve its goals of preventing the spread of cholera and to promote the culture of hand-washing with soap among others.

“Hand- washing with soap is a key action in protecting the health of the public because it is a mainstay in infection control; and that saves lives,” he said.

In a speech read on her behalf by Mr. David Duncan, Chief of WASH - UNICEF Ms. Susan Ngongi, Country Representative for United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), admonished parents to encourage hand- washing with soap and water among their children so they could grow with that culture.

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