The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has warned that 3 in 5 Nigerians do not have basic handwashing facilities at home to fight off infectious diseases.
The Organisation disclosed this in a press statement on Friday, October 15, 2021 in commemoration of this year’s Global Handwashing Day tagged “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together.”
TheFact Nigeria noted that the handwashing facilities placed in public places at the onset of the covid-19 pandemic have been abandoned, most of them are no longer functional.
UNICEF stated that, although handwashing with soap was critical in the fight against infectious diseases, including covid-19, only 16% of Nigerians have access to basic handwashing facilities at home, leaving families and communities at risk of many infectious diseases, with children particularly vulnerable.
Statistics from the organisation showed that 3 in 10 people globally do not have handwashing facilities with water and soap available at home. In the least developed countries however, the situation was worse as over 6 in 10 people were without access to basic hand hygiene.
UNICEF stressed that progress in hand hygiene was slow and called for more investments to speed it up. UNICEF WASH Director Kelly Ann Naylor said:
“Global response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic have created an unprecedented time for hand hygiene. Yet progress remains far too slow for the most vulnerable, underserved communities.
“Hand hygiene cannot be viewed as a temporary provision to manage COVID-19. Further long-term investment in water, sanitation and hygiene can help prevent the next health crisis from coming.
“It also means fewer people falling ill with respiratory infections, fewer children dying from diarrheal diseases, and more pregnant mothers and newborns protected from preventable conditions like sepsis”, she said.
The latest data from UNICEF showed that some progress had been achieved since 2015, the global population with access to basic hand hygiene at home had increased from 5 billion to 5.5 billion.
They warned that if progress continued at this pace, 1.9 billion people will still not have access to basic hand hygiene by the end of the decade.
The data also revealed that 21% of Nigerians had access to basic handwashing facilities at home in 2018, compared to 16% in 2019, indicating a worrying downward trend. A situation experts described as worrying.
Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Rushnan Murtaza, said:
“The downward trend in access to hand hygiene services in Nigeria is very worrying.
“Handwashing with soap and water may seem like a simple act – but it is lifesaving. It protects us from many diseases, including cholera.
“We must work together to make handwashing not only possible, but a habit. This will have a hugely positive impact for the health and well-being of all Nigerians”, she said.
The data further revealed that 4 in 5 healthcare facilities in Nigeria do not have hand hygiene facilities at points of care where the patient, healthcare worker, and treatment involve contact with the patient. 9 out of 10 schools in the country also have no place for children to wash their hands.
UNICEF therefore urged the government to commit to providing hand hygiene, not as a temporary response to the pandemic, but as an investment in public health and economic resilience.