A recent survey conducted by UNICEF found that 47% of Nigerians do not wash their hands after defecating. UNICEF released the results of the survey on Global Handwashing Day.
UNICEF said of the results, “This poses a serious public-health risk. Every year Nigeria loses over 150,000 children from diarrhea alone, largely caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene practices. This is equivalent to a big passenger aircraft crashing every day."
According to UNICEF washing one’s hands with soap has proven to be beneficial to health, and the practice is dangerously low in many countries worldwide.
Global Handwashing Day has existed for eight years. Recently, the United Nations said that one of its Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve worldwide access to adequate sanitation and hygiene by the year 2030.
Not being able to access proper sanitation can cause young children to die because of easily preventable illnesses such as diarrhea.
According to UNICEF, washing one’s hands with soap after going to the bathroom, changing diapers and before eating or handling food can save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. Washing hands can cut the number of deaths caused by diarrhea in half. It can also reduce deaths caused by acute respiratory infections by 25%.
Washing hands has also been shown to prevent the spread of Ebola.
As part of Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF and several of its partners are trying to inform 10 million Nigerians about the importance of washing one’s hands. The groups plan to put on handwashing demonstrations in schools and air jingles on radio and television. They also are going to put messages on Facebook and Twitter.
Global Handwashing Day was first held in 2008. That year, the world celebrated by having more than 120 million children in more than 70 countries washing their hands with soap simultaneously.
The theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day is “Raise a hand for hygiene”.
Estimates show that proper handwashing could save the lives of about two million children every year.