UNICEF, Cross River to prevent diseases, save lives with hand washing campaigns
As part of efforts to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with Yakurr Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State has intensified activities.
UNICEF Consultant at Yakurr, Mr. Collins Njoku, at the Global Hand washing Day (GHWD) celebration said the team has mobilised and sensitised 300 Environmental Health Clubs (EHC), school children from 30 schools, 60 EHC coordinators, 30 School Based Management Committees (SBMCs), 21 Water Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM) Federation Executives, 21 Local Task Group on Sanitation (LTGS), 29 LGA Staff, five Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), four Local Government Education Authority (LGEA), two media men, two Cross River State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (CRSRUWASSA), five natural leaders and one LGA WASH consultant.
According to Njoku, other activities conducted by Yakurr and UNICEF include: provision of 480 branded materials (T shirts) for participants; production of banners for more visibility and awareness at the LGA level; floating of road show; events featuring a mix of speeches, hand washing demo in schools and public places, hygiene songs by school children, experience sharing by children, women, WASHCOMs and natural leaders; publications in a national print media and broadcast in Cross River State (CRS) Radio; construction of tippy taps and institutionalization of daily group hand washing in the primary schools; inter-school hygiene competition; and monitoring and follow up activities.
GHWD is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. It is a campaign meant to motivate and mobilize millions around the world to wash their hands with soap as a key approach to life – saving – disease – prevention. It is an opportunity to design, test and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with clean water and soap/ash at critical times.
This year’s GHWD theme was “Make Hand Washing a Habit”.
According to UNICEF, for hand washing to be effective, it has to be practised consistently at key times, such as after using the toilet, before contact with food, before breastfeeding and after cleaning up a baby. While habits must be developed over time, this theme emphasises the importance of hand washing as a ritual behaviour for long term sustainability.
Njoku said more than 500 people made up of school children, school teachers, SBMC/Parent Teachers Association (PTA) members, WASHCOM, natural leaders, NGOs, LTGS, WASH staff, CRSRUWASSA staff and the media participated in the activity.
He said more than 500 participants were sensitized on the GHWD 2016 theme and made an open declaration to practice hand washing as a habit at critical times daily as key to disease prevention, healthful living and improved life expectancy.
Njoku said massive public awareness created and thousands of people receive targeted messages through the media and public hand washing campaigns in strategic locations in public places on the theme and have awareness on proper hand washing as antidote against germs and diseases in households and communities.
He said more hand washing facilities were provided, including Tippy Taps close to household, institutional and public latrines for personal hand washing immediately after using the toilet and close to school classrooms for group hand washing, improved hand washing habit and practice at critical times daily with clean water and soap/ash to strengthen and sustain Yakurr LGA wide Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
Njoku said UNICEF’s visibility promoted and mass and traditional media mobilized for enriched public advocacy using the theme and opportunities provided by the celebration in Yakurr LGA
He said opportunity provided by this year’s celebration used to advocate for the institutionalization of GHWD into governments annual events for children, women, households, communities and public institutions for promotion of hand washing as an art, habit and behaviour and for sustainability.
On lessons learnt, Njoku said: “There is immeasurable strength in partnership and collaborative effort. School children and their teachers are veritable agents of change. Competitions bring out the best in school children and their teachers. The agenda setting theory of the mass media is still valid. The media has the capacity to influence public opinion on any public issue. Engaging local actors, stakeholders and partners in activities outside their local domain is motivational and gives them a sense of worth.
“Commemoration of global events like GHWD creates awareness and facilitates desired change in the people and fulfills the globalization aphorism that the world is a global village. Group hand washing in schools should be a supervised activity by teachers or/and older school children to avoid children wetting their school uniforms and destroying the tippy taps.”
The UNICEF Consultant recommended among other things that GHWD is to be sustained by the government and communities. This, he said, can be achieved by strong advocacy by UNICEF to State and Local Governments to mainstream it in government calendar of events in schools and public places.
Other recommendations include: engagement with local actors and partners should be sustained by UNICEF and the LGA; major global events should be continuously pivoted around school children, teachers and the media as agents of positive change; and forging of stronger partnership and collaboration with implementing partners by UNICEF.