Friday, October 18, 2013

WaterAid Ghana promotes hand washing with soap at Nima

A girl being directed to wash her hands clean
By Nathaniel Y. Yankson

Nima has since time immemorial been classified as one of Ghana’s most filthiest and notorious suburban area. An area where garbage and human excreta could be seen littered all over with poor drainage system. Many were those who took ill and died as a result of this healthy environment.

But the adaption of periodic campaigns and education strategies on healthy living among the youth and people of the area by some individuals, NGOs and donors, Nima, which hitherto was a no go area, is now a business hub for banks and other service providers. At least, the area now boasts of some sort of cleanliness.

The current generation of people has come to terms with healthy living and have opened their doors for more health tips and practices to enable them stay clean at all times.

Marking this year’s Global Hand Washing Day on Tuesday, WaterAid Ghana brought together parents caregivers and food vendors in Nima to ensure that their customers as well as wards washed their hands with soap and clean water before and after eating at all.

This, according to WaterAid, is to promote healthy living conditions among the people.

The occasion is celebrated every 15th October to foster and support a global and local culture of hand washing with soap. The 2013 commemoration was on the theme: “The power is in your hands” and according to organizers, each individual has a responsibility to stay healthy.

“The celebration seeks to shine a spotlight on the state of hand washing and raise awareness about the benefits of hand washing with soap,” a press release said.

Statistics available showed 50 per cent of Ghanaians practiced hand washing with soap after using the toilet, cleaning a child’s faeces and before handling food.

WaterAid Ghana is an international non-governmental organization (NGO), which aims to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene in poor communities such as Nima.

The organization said though the country has made some gains in nationwide water coverage, it was still lagging behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation. The country has only made a 14 per cent impact in that direction.

But “WaterAid Ghana believes that more hand washing with soap would make a significant contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.”

It has been revealed that over 3,500 children under age five died of diseases due to inaccessible water supply, sanitation and hygiene services each year.

Global hand washing

The UN General Assembly designated 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation and Global Hand Washing Day was instituted to echo and reinforce its call for improved hygiene practices.

The first ever Global Hand Washing Day was held on Wednesday October, 2008, across the world.

Hand washing with soap has been described as the single-most cost effective health intervention.

It is also the most effective way to avert Disability-adjusted Life Years (DALYs) associated with diarrheal diseases. “Hand washing is also less expensive than immunization; for instance, one DALY requires investment in measles immunization anywhere from $250 to $4,500.”

Head of Policy and Partnership at WaterAid Ghana, Ibrahim Musah mentioned that practicing hand washing with soap seemed difficult to some persons since they believed washing alone with water could remove visible dirt was enough to make the hands clean.

“But washing hands with water alone is significantly less effective than washing hands with soap in terms of removing germs,” he stressed.

Mr. Musah further argued that observing hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, reducing deaths from diarrheal by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter.

“Ironically, many people wash their hands with only water before meals and rather wash them with soap after meals. The hand washing day activity was therefore to dispel the perception that hand washing with soap before meals contaminates food. It was also to raise awareness among parents and caregivers of the importance of ensuring children washed their hands during critical moments.”

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