Handwashing with soap under running water most effective health intervention – Salako

The Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with relevant stakeholders across government at all levels has taken steps to deliver adequate sanitation and hygiene services to the citizenry. HELEN OJI report.

Research has shown that creating awareness on proper handwashing helps communities to stay healthy by reducing the number of people who get sick with diarrhoea by 23-40%, reducing diarrhoea illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%, reducing respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21% and reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in school children by 29-57%.

Hand washing as a remedy

According to the Minister of State for Environment, Dr Ziaq Adekunle Salako, handwashing with soap under running water is the most cost-effective health intervention compared with others such as immunization and responding to disease outbreaks. Hands often act as agents that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces, hence hand hygiene is regarded as one of the most important elements of infection control activities and alone can significantly reduce the risk of cross-transmission of infection in healthcare facilities.

He said the “Clean hands are within reach” calls for strong leadership and collective efforts to close the gaps in access and practice to achieve hand hygiene for all.

Clean and portable water

“The achievement of environmental sanitation is a cross-cutting issue and the importance of clean and portable water cannot be overemphasized, therefore necessary resources must be committed to ensuring that sufficient clean water is available for hand washing at appropriate times, particularly after using the toilet; after coughing or sneezing; after cleaning a child who has gone to the toilet or change of diapers; after touching surfaces, books, garbage and money; before, during and after preparing food; before and after eating; before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea and after playing with animals,” he stressed.

He urged Nigerians that effective hand washing involves the following steps which must be adhered to religiously, wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap; Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap.

“Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails; Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds; rinse your hands well under clean running water; and dry your hands using a clean towel to dry them.

Adequate provision of handwashing facilities

Dr Salako called on Nigerians especially those in places of authority, public or private to ensure adequate provision of handwashing facilities within the reach of all citizenry.

“The simple act of washing hands with soap under running water can reduce infection by 50% and respiratory disease by 25%.

Also speaking, Deputy Director Project USAID, Dr Olayinka Umar-Farouk, said handwashing is not just one of the most important things, but the simplest thing we can do to stay healthy. It can help protect us from a wide range of diseases, including COVID-19, diarrhoea diseases like cholera, respiratory diseases like pneumonia, as well as other infectious diseases.

He urge everyone to commit to three things: washing their hands regularly sneezing into their bent elbow

teach someone else these behaviors.

“Together, we can make a difference and help create a healthier and safer world for all.

Dr.Farouk noted that clean hands are indeed within reach! Make a commitment today to take action.

“Let us collectively use this day as a powerful and poignant reminder of the pivotal role that proper hand hygiene plays in averting the proliferation of infections and in safeguarding the health and welfare of our communities. It is our firm resolve to persist in advocating for resolute policies and mobilising resources with the unwavering objective of ensuring that no individual is left marginalised or underserved.