Lack of Access to Handwashing Facilities, Behaviour Change Programmes Put People to Health Risk


Bennett Oghifo

Inequalities in access to proper handwashing facilities and to behaviour change programmes can put individuals at higher risk for diseases that impact their health, education, and economic outcomes.

National Coordinator, WSSCC Nigeria, Elizabeth Jeiyol stated this during the commemoration of the Global Handwashing Day by the Water Supply And Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) Support Unit Office Abuja on October 15, 2019.

Every October 15th, millions of people celebrate Global Handwashing Day through worldwide celebrations, events, and advocacy campaigns. Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership, an international coalition of organisations working to promote handwashing with soap. Handwashing with soap is a simple and effective way to prevent diseases and ensure overall health.

In 2018, more than 570 million people promoted the simple, life-saving act of handwashing with soap on Global Handwashing Day.

This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme, “Clean Hands for All,” follows the year-long push to leave no one behind in the Sustainable Development agenda. Handwashing with soap is a simple, yet often neglected act.

To achieve handwashing equity, this year’s Global Handwashing Day emphasises the need to look to those often left behind and actively work to ensure inclusivity in handwashing efforts moving forward.

Globally, only 60% of the world’s population has access to a basic handwashing facility. Among vulnerable groups, handwashing is a greater challenge. In conflict-affected settings, children under 5 years of age are 20 times more likely to die of diarrhea than violence. Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea in these settings by nearly half. Handwashing with soap is a critical way to ensure health for all.

In Nigeria, despite the critical importance of hygiene in healthcare and improved education outcomes, statistics estimate that 50% of healthcare facilities lack clean water, 88% are without basic sanitation and 57% lack handwashing facilities with soap. Similarly, 72.4% of schools in Nigeria lack handwashing facilities (NBS 2018) and as a result, diarrhea diseases linked to the nation’s poor access levels to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) claim the lives of 60,000 children every year. Global Handwashing Day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing. The Day encourages action to promote and sustain handwashing habits. Beyond Global Handwashing Day, communities should ensure handwashing stations with soap are accessible and appropriate, provide inclusive behavior change programming, and advocate for handwashing in policies to ensure clean hands for all.

On behalf of WSSCC Nigeria, we want to wish all sector players, development partners, WSSCC members and WASH enthusiasts a meaningful commemoration. Reach out, create the awareness, save a life and make this nation and world a better place.