Mr David Duncan, the Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has called on stakeholders to help eliminate hand washing related problems and diseases in the next five years.
He said as a result of unhygienic practices by many Ghanaians with hand washing not being an exception, over 4, 000 children die from diarrhoea in Ghana every year.
“About 4 billion cases of diarrhoea per year cause 1.8 million deaths, over 90 per cent of them (1.6 million) among children under five.
“Repeated episodes of diarrhoeal diseases make children more vulnerable to other diseases and malnutrition,” Mr Duncan said at the 2017 Global Hand Wash Day held in Accra on Sunday.
He said with diarrhoea being the most important public health problem directly related to water and sanitation, there is the need for government to put in place pragmatic measures that would help curb the situation.
“The simple act of washing hands with soap and water can cut diarrhoeal disease by one-third. Next to providing adequate sanitation facilities, it is the key to preventing waterborne diseases,” he said.
Mr Duncan expressed concern that hand washing was not a common practice among many Ghanaians as only one out of five people washed their hands after visiting insanitary areas.
Lauding government for the increasing efforts put in place towards hand washing among schools in the Volta Region, he called for more to be done.
Mr Worlanyo Siabi, the Chief Executive of Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), said since 2001, CWSA has provided the anchor for the public private partnership for hand washing with soap under its mandate for water and sanitation delivery and hygiene promotion.
He said hand washing with soap was included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target 6.2 for sanitation and hygiene.
“By adding a crucial hand washing component to existing and ongoing sanitation activities, the critical health benefits to achieve the SDG 6 can be realised,” he said.
Mr Siabi said hand washing was also important for meeting targets around child survival, nutrition, gender, equity and education.
Mrs Theodora Adomako-Adjei, the Extension Services Coordinator of CWSA, said indeed the practice of hand washing has become an international agenda which was worth celebrating every year to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of hand washing with soap.
Touching on the theme: “Our Hand, our Future”, she said the theme seeks to remind the public that simple hand washing acts would protect their health and would also allow them to build their own future.
“Thinking of the future, we strive for health, well-being and productivity for ourselves, our families and our communities,” she said.
Adomako-Adjei urged the public to choose hand washing not only on Global Hand Washing Day, but every day.
“Hand washing must become a habit that people automatically perform at critical times and be practised consistently to work,” she advised.
Mr Joseph Obeng Poku, the Chief Director of the Ministry for Sanitation and Water Resources, said every one could improve their own health by washing their hands and engaging families and communities to practice hand washing.
He urged the public to promote a future Ghana where hand washing with soap and water at critical times was readily accepted and practised by all adding that “always remember the critical time after visiting the toilet and before handling food,” he said.
Mr Augustine Tawiah, the Member of Parliament for Bia West Constituency called for a sensitization WASH programme among community members.
There was a sketch, an interactive hand washing session, demonstration on how best to wash the hands as well as street match among members of the Church of Christ Nsawam Road to mark the day.
October 15 is Global Hand washing Day, it is a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap and water.