The Federal Government has started the implementation of mid-day group hand washing before meals in schools across the country to inculcate the culture of hand washing in children.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, made this known in Abuja on Monday at an event to commemorate the 2017 Global Hand Washing Day.
He said that group hand washing by schoolchildren would promote the adoption of life-saving habits and the sustainability of such practices in health care facilities and homes.
Mr Adamu said that the policy was part of the Federal Government’s National Hygiene Promotion Strategy, aimed at promoting the well-being of the public.
He said that raising awareness on hand washing at critical times would bring about the needed behavioural change, adding that this would enhance healthy living and boost the nation’s economy.
“Nigeria suffers from the ill effects of poor hygiene, recoding over 59,000 deaths of children before the age of five annually, out of the 1.7 million cases recorded globally.
“This is as a result of diarrhea, pneumonia as well as other sanitation and hygiene-related diseases,’’ he added.
The minister said that the adoption of the hand washing habit was recognised as one of the cost-effective and inexpensive ways of preventing diseases and deaths.
Mr Adamu said that the adoption of good hygiene practices, with emphasis on hand washing at critical times, would play an important role in achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, on child survival, nutrition and equity.
The Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Halidou Koanda, said that washing hands with soap and water regularly was the most important and cheapest method of curbing the spread of disease-causing germs.
“Washing your hands with soap also means you can spend less time in hospital and more time in school; it keeps you healthy to do all the things you love to do.
“It not only protects you, it also protects everyone around you because it stops germs spreading from you to others,’’ he added.
Mr Koanda underscored the need to adopt hand washing in all schools, saying that this would promote the healthy living of the citizens.
WASH Specialist, UNICEF, Moustapha Niang, said that promoting hand-washing practices should not only involve the provision of hygiene facilities, adding that it should also entail making the people to use such facilities.
“Choosing hand washing is choosing health which is important to our future. Good hygiene practices must be a habit which requires choosing to perform them not only on Global Hand Washing Days but also on a regular basis,” he said.
The Global Hand Washing Day is celebrated on October 15 annually since 2008 when it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and the theme of the 2017 celebration is “Our Hands, Our Future’’.
It is a day set aside to promote a global culture of hand washing with soap and raise awareness on the benefits of the practice.
The theme for this year’s event is conceptualised to emphasise how hand washing protects the people’s health, while offering them the opportunity to build a sustainable future.