The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says nine out of 10 schools in Nigeria have no place for children to wash their hands.
This, according to the international organisation, indicates a downward trend in the fight against infectious diseases.
UNICEF said this in a statement released on Friday in Abuja to mark the 2021 “Global Hand-washing Day“ celebrated annually on Oct. 15.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together”.
The theme was selected in recognition of the global movement promoting hand-washing as key to prevent COVID-19 transmission and the need to keep building on the momentum after the pandemic.
UNICEF said that in 2018, only 21 per cent of Nigerians had access to basic hand-washing facilities at home adding that the figure dropped to 16 per cent in 2019.
“Four in 10 schools worldwide do not have basic hygiene services with water and soap, affecting 818 million students of which 462 million attend schools with no facility at all.
“In Nigeria, nine out of 10 schools have no place for children to wash their hands.
“In Nigeria also, 21 per cent of Nigerians had access to basic hand-washing facilities at home in 2018 compared to 16 per cent in 2019, indicating a worrying downward trend.
“The global response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented time for hand hygiene, yet, progress remains far too slow for the most vulnerable, underserved communities, “UNICEF said.
It said that although hand-washing with soap remained critical in the fight against infectious diseases, including COVID-19, only 16 per cent of Nigerians had access to basic hand-washing facilities at home.
According to UNICEF, this leaves families and communities at risk of many infectious diseases with children particularly vulnerable.
“The latest global estimates indicate that three in 10 people, approximately 2.3 billion persons, do not have access to basic hand-washing facilities with water and soap at home.
“These include 670 million people globally who do not have any facility at all.
“In the least developed countries, more than six in 10 people lack basic hand hygiene facilities at home.
“One in three healthcare facilities worldwide do not have hand hygiene facilities at points of care where the patient, healthcare worker, and treatment involve contact with the patient.
UNICEF said that in Nigeria, the figure was four in five healthcare facilities.
It said that despite the downward trend experienced in 2018 and 2019, some progress had been made globally since 2015 in access to basic hand hygiene at home.
UNICEF said that during the reporting period, basic hand hygiene at home increased from 5 billion to 5.5 billion.
It said, however, that if the slow progress continued, 1.9 billion people would still not have access to basic hand hygiene by the end of the decade.
The agency called on the public not to view hand hygiene as a temporary provision to manage COVID-19 but make it a habit.
UNICEF also called for more investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene to help prevent the occurrence of any major health crisis in Nigeria, as well as other parts of the world.
It said that investment in these facilities would ensure that fewer people fall ill with respiratory infections, and fewer children die from diarrheal diseases.
UNICEF said that this would also mean that more pregnant mothers and newborns will be protected from preventable conditions like sepsis.