The Federal Government has pledged to improve the culture of handwashing, as only four percent of Nigerians practice it at critical times.
Joseph Utsev, minister of water resources and sanitation, said this at a news conference to commemorate the 2023 Global Handwashing Day with the theme, ‘Clean hands are within our reach’ in Abuja.
Utsev said imbibing the culture of handwashing at critical times would curtail the spread of preventable diseases, promote human health and strengthen communities.
According to him, handwashing is a ‘first line of defence’ in preventing outbreaks and reducing the toll of pandemics, as can be attested from the last experience with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Quoting the 2021 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) Report, Utsev said national access to basic hygiene services stood at an abysmal 17 percent.
The minister, represented by John Ochigbo, director, River Basin Operations and Inspectorate, said there was 99 percent knowledge of handwashing practices, while only eight percent practiced it.
“It may also interest you to know that a high knowledge of handwashing practices estimated at 99 percent was reported, in practice, only eight percent of the population can demonstrate proper handwashing with water and soap under running water.
“In addition, only four percent are likely to practice proper handwashing with water and soap in critical times such as after defecation, touching animals or sick persons, playing and before cooking, eating, handling food, or feeding others.
“These low indices indicate the need to review our strategies in order to strengthen our interventions for greater effectiveness and for sustainable results”.
According to him, in order to reverse these trends, the ministry has commenced the implementation of the Hand Hygiene for All Roadmap, which gives a strategic direction to achieve hand hygiene for all.
“This will help the country chart a course towards ensuring available and affordable products and services that will help entrench a culture of handwashing with soap for all, especially for the less privileged population.
While appreciating the efforts of the development partners and other stakeholders, the minister called for renewed commitment, to build good hygiene culture for Nigerians.
The housing day celebrated annually on October 15, is aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way for disease prevention.
Highlights of the day were sensitisation rally, the distribution of handbills to create awareness about the importance of handwashing and why it should be prioritised.