• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Coronavirus: Why many are still at risk amid hand-washing practice

Coronavirus: Why many are still at risk amid hand-washing practice

Though hand-washing remains the single most cost-effective do-it-yourself vaccine for preventing Coronavirus and other infectious diseases, many Nigerians are still at risk of contracting them.

It is believed in the health management circles that hand-washing with soap and water can drastically reduce the risk of people contracting infectious diseases like the dreaded Coronavirus, which is now recognised as a public health emergency of international concern.

Furthermore, hand-washing is one of the simplest and most effective disease prevention methods available. It’s been shown to reduce cases of all respiratory diseases by 20 percent and diarrhoea by 30 percent, and can help healthcare centres be better placed to support a response to an outbreak.

It is argued that if everyone, everywhere had a place to wash their hands with soap and water as often as needed, it would go a long way towards helping to contain and prevent the spread of many diseases.

But concerns remain. Figures from the WHO/UNICEF 2019 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reveal that 58 percent of homes in Nigeria do not have hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

Added to that, the population of those in Nigeria that lacks access to hand-washing facilities with soap and water is about 150 million, WaterAid, an international not-for-profit organisation which works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people has said, citing national statistics.


In Nigeria, only 5 percent of health facilities have combined basic water, sanitation and hygiene services while just 13 percent of schools in the country have basic water and sanitation services.

It is against this backdrop that WaterAid, which is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation, laments that no one is spared.

“Against this sad reality, large segments of the population—healthcare workers, babies, children, public workers – and indeed everyone – are at risk of contracting diseases like the Coronavirus,” confirmed Evelyn Mere, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, to BusinessDay.

Mere empasised that hand-washing with soap and water could reduce disease spread by nearly half, quoting  the World Health Organisation 2019 public advisory which recommends regular and thorough washing of hands with soap and water to protect oneself and others.

There are some critical times when hand-washing with soap become necessary and the Country Director listed them as after toilet use, before cooking or preparing food, before eating, and before feeding someone, including before breastfeeding; after handling money, touching animals, being out in public or sneezing and coughing.

“It is important for everyone to wash their hands at all critical times to sustain good hygiene behaviours; Frequent hand-washing with soap and water is one of the key components of controlling the spread of infectious diseases, including Covid-19,” Mere said

She pointed out, however, that one in six healthcare facilities globally do not have both soap and water available for doctors, nurses and patients to wash their hands, which can make disease prevention and delivering safe, quality care much more challenging. She added that about two in five people in Sub-Saharan African also have nowhere to wash their hands with soap and water in their homes.