Country Representative of WaterAid Nigeria, Dr. Michael Ojo has decried the high child mortality in Nigeria, saying most of these child deaths would have been prevented with improved access to safe drinking water and better hygiene.
Speaking yesterday during activities organised in Abuja, Nigeria to mark the 5th Global Handwashing Day, Ojo lamented that “too many children in Nigeria still die every year before their fifth birthday as a result of diarrhoea and other diseases related to unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene. What is even sadder is the lack of access to simple measures such as hand washing with soap which can help prevent diarrhoea, pneumonia, and other diseases that stop many children from reaching their 5th birthday.”
Pneumonia.org estimates that over 868,000 Nigerian children die each year, about a quarter of which are from water related and vaccine preventable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, meningitis and measles.
Also the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diarrheal diseases caused the deaths of around 124,400 children under five years old in Nigeria in the 2008. The indirect effects of malnutrition – to which poor water and sanitation contribute 50% according to WHO – cost a further 37,000 lives
The WaterAid Chief, therefore advocated for the increase practice of Handwashing with soap among chief, which he described as “the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhoeal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths”
“Turning hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhoea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter. A vast change in hand washing behaviour is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.
We must ensure that we promote long-term behaviour change throughout the year and as a crucial part of everyday life. The call is for us to come alive to our responsibilities – our responsibility to join clean hands to promote awareness about the simple, affordable and yet life-saving practice of hand washing”
The theme for Global Handwashing Day 2013, celebrated yesterday was: “The power is in your hands” It emphasizes that everyone has the power to create healthier communities through hand washing with soap. Everyone can improve their own health by washing hands with soap, especially after using the restroom and before touching food.