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WaterAid Seeks Improved Investment In Hygiene To Prevent COVID-19

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid has urged the Nigerian government to double its investment in clean water and hygiene to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services are fundamental to improving lives, health, livelihoods, gender equality, education outcomes and for driving economic and sustainable development.

Moreover, now more than ever, the basic human rights to these essential services must be upheld, with particular attention given to the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised segments of the population who are most vulnerable to infectious diseases such as COVID-19, in order to ensure that “we truly leave no one behind”.

WaterAid also noted that the theme of the 2020 Handwashing Day, ‘Hand Hygiene for All’, is a call to action to make hand hygiene a reality for all, adding that the current COVID-19 pandemic highlights the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission and provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap.

The group added that in order to beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.

 “The theme reminds us of the need to take immediate action on hand hygiene across all public and private settings to respond and control the COVID-19 pandemic. Hand hygiene must become everybody’s business.

“It also reminds us of the need to build on the current momentum to make hand hygiene a mainstay in public health interventions beyond the pandemic and create a culture of hand hygiene”, WaterAid said in a statement to commemorate this year’s event.

Regrettably, according to the statement, in Nigerian a staggering 84 percent of people, about 167 million, do not have basic handwashing facilities available on premises with water and soap.

“Frequent handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Without this frontline defence, the risk of the virus spreading in communities is greater.

“To make matters worse, in Nigeria, 90 percent of schools do not have basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, leaving children vulnerable not only to Covid-19 but also to other infectious diseases”, the statement added. .

It further noted that millions of children and young people across the country miss lessons to walk long distances to collect water or use bushes in the school grounds to go to the toilet. 

The statement stressed that  due to the continued lack of clean water and soap, children are not only exposed to this disease, they risk spreading it among other members of their community, while those forced to stay home will miss out on vital education.

Globally, 3 billion people are living without somewhere to wash their hands with clean water and soap at home and one in four health centres lack these basic facilities on site. In Nigeria, only 7 percent of healthcare facilities have combined water, sanitation and hygiene access.

Unfortunately, without clean water, good hygiene and sanitation, health centres, the very places which are supposed to make you better and keep you well, are at high risk of becoming breeding grounds for COVID-19.

Consequently, healthcare workers are staring down this disease without the facilities needed to protect themselves and their patients. Despite this, less than 1 percent of the funding for responding to COVID-19 has been invested in scaling up access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

The country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere said it is unacceptable that in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, where clean water and hygiene offer a vital first line of defence against the disease, over 160 million people in Nigeria are still living without basic handwashing facilities.

“How can they protect themselves adequately from this and other deadly diseases? As thousands of people across the world demonstrate their support, we are urgently calling on our government to listen and double investment in clean water and hygiene so that everyone, including the most vulnerable in our society, have the chance of a healthy and secure future”, she added.

Meanwhile, in this year’s Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid Nigeria is joining with thousands of others through its celebrity-backed Art of Change competition to call for governments to act by bringing clean water and hygiene to everyone. 

The competition was launched in July this year on the 10-year anniversary of water and sanitation being recognised by the United Nations General Assembly as vital human rights, which should be afforded to every person.

 It attracted 285 artists across 44 countries who produced inspiring artwork on the theme of water and hygiene to help use their art as a force for good and make the voices of millions heard on this important issue

Today, WaterAid has announced that the powerful winning Art of Change piece, chosen by the public, ‘Clean water saves live’  will now be presented to government leaders across the world, together with a letter of support, urging them to make sure everyone has water and hygiene to defend themselves and their communities against diseases – including COVID-19.

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