How UNICEF, others redefined World Hand Washing Day in Nigeria

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Over 200 million people worldwide came together Thursday October 15 to promote and celebrate this year’s edition of the World Hand Washing Day.

The simple life-saving message – hand washing with soap saves lives – which cut across tribes and tongues in many states drew nursery and primary school teachers from grassroots areas across Local Government Areas with elders and royal fathers refusing to be outdone.

Over 3,000 children and teachers from hundreds of schools in grassroots communities in Cross Rivers State were empowered as ‘Hygiene Heroes’ – hand washing promoters in their schools and communities thrilled the people with fun, songs and drama – all emphasising on the need to imbibe the culture of hand washing as a lifestyle.

These schools from communities that have already resolved to improve their own hygiene and sanitation culture, competed to show that they have the ‘CareX Factor’.

The talent competition enabled children to exercise their young imaginations in hand washing as they performed their own version of the campaign anthem, ‘Wash Your Hands O’ recorded by Nigerian music star Sunny Neji.

Winners of each event as judged by a panel of local leaders performed with the artiste and his band at the Grand held in Calabar where exciting prizes were won.

Daily Times gathered that Concern Universal embarked on the campaign as part of a wider five-year initiative, Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN), with the aim to empower two million people living in the country’s rural communities in the South-East to sustain and improve their sanitation and hygiene culture and practices.

The project is funded by the United Nation’s Global Sanitation Fund. Unlike most donor projects, the Nigerian Government is the driving force behind the initiative and has committed to matching the UN’s funds to reach twice as many people in other regions of the country.

This initiative followed the success of the 2014 edition of the campaign which featured top Nigerian artistes like 2face Idibia and Sunny Neji and powered by brands like Carex Soap and Etisalat.

In the just concluded edition, Concern Universal was delighted that Sunny Neji remained their Campaign Ambassador and Carex, the UK’s most popular soap brand –increased its support, enabling them to reach thousands more school children in Nigeria, including hundreds of UK school children, and feature more special guests and opportunities for supporters around the world to join the all important health campaign.

Meanwhile, Bayelsa state citizens also trooped out to mark the day with a resolve ensure that proper hand washing, which has been identified as a major preventive measure to deadly infections among children and the older folks is practiced as a lifestyle all year round.

As part of the 8th annual commemoration of the global Hand Washing Day awareness campaign, the Brass Local Government Area (WASH Unit), in collaboration with UNICEF and the LGA Council, held an awareness and sensitisation campaign in the LGA on proper hygiene practices.
Over 70% of cholera infection was discovered to be preventable if hands are properly and regularly washed.
The high infection rate in the country, especially in the grassroots community areas has been attributed to poor sanitation in homes, offices and other commercial places and the vulnerability of the people. Hygiene preventive measures are over looked and people in the interior grassroots communities become vulnerable to diseases transmitted by unwashed hands.
Regular washing of hands with soap and water especially after defecation will help prevent the spread of infection.

Experts have also determined that washing of hands with hot water and soap for the time it takes to sing a verse of ‘twinkle, twinkle, little star’ should ensure any germs on the hands are destroyed.
Carrying banners with the theme, “Raise A Hand For Hygiene”, the road walk was done by placards carrying pupils, students and teachers with hygiene inscriptions in over four schools in Twon Brass; four in Egwema community; two in Wagitia; four in Odioama; two in Beletiema and two in Egbabele among many others.

The essence of the campaign was to create more awareness through the younger generation in order to send a lasting message to the older ones in the community. Hand washing is a win for everyone, except the germs.

Coordinator of the WASH Brass unit, Chief Igbogi Jude Pulemote, stated that the most cause effective means of preventing diseases was to wash the hand regularly and properly, noting that personal hygiene is what everyone should practice.

“Keeping the hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid sicknesses and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean under running water.

“In 2008, the United Nations adopted October 15 for the Hand Washing Day campaign, reiterating that poor sanitation or hygiene was one of the reason diseases are affecting a larger ratio of children in the country.”

Pulemote further said proper washing of hands involves seven simple and effective steps (Wet, rub soap lather, scrub under the fingers nails, scrub each sides of the finger, scrub the rough angles of the finger, rinse and dry).

“These can be used to reduce the spread of infections so as to remain healthier because there are so many diseases and bacteria that can’t be seen with the human eyes that can result in serious illness that could lead all the way to death.”

In his contribution, the Paramount ruler of Sambo Ama community, Chief Ngeri Ikawarinmbo, noted that the purpose of washing the hands is to remove dirt, organic materials and transient micro-organisms.

“About 75 percent of these killer diseases are preventable, but because of the ignorance among the rural dwellers or neglects to wash the hands properly, everybody becomes vulnerable.”

He counseled the children that all the preventive measures that have been taught shouldn’t be left in the hall but in their memories at all times.

“Health is the only access to wealthy living,” he told them.

The coordinator of HIV/AIDS Brass LGA, Mr. Benjamin Ben Dikuro, urged those in attendance to seize the opportunity availed them to do all they have been taught.

“There is no better option than washing our hands after every activity. Ensure you pass this message to everyone around you wherever you go; whatever bathrooms or toilets you choose to use, there is need to keep one thing on your mind, and that is – washing your hands thoroughly,” Dikuro concluded.

The day’s awareness activities had kicked off with workshops, public health address and demonstrations all over the communities.

Carex Soap in association with Concern Universal have been in the forefront of running the longest and largest campaign to in celebration of the biggest health day in history.

An official at the event told Daily Times they have reached over a million people in Nigeria, thousands in the United Kingdom and millions more are targeted around the world with fun and creative activities to promote effective hand washing.”

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