In Summary
  • Healthcare facilities can’t properly serve patients without soap and water.
  • Clean birth attendants’ hands are the first step to giving newborns a healthy start.

As Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate Sanitation Week, it is time for all of us to think about our sanitation standards. Leaders are crucial in the campaign about sanitation, hence the Theme: Good sanitation, how is your leader!
Hand washing with soap is a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that, when practiced properly and regularly, prevents infections and saves lives. It is one of the preventive measures to curb two common childhood diseases that still have higher morbidity and mortality, diarrhoea and pneumonia in children under five years of age. Everyone can prevent diseases and improve health with hand washing with soap.

The UN – Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon has appealed to governments to invest in young people to help them steer the world into a sustainable future. The United Nations agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. These 17 goals represent political priorities for UN member states over the next 15 years. Goal six addresses water, sanitation and hygiene. Target 6.2 calls upon countries to “achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.” To achieve this target, countries will need to measure the per cent of the population with access to safely managed sanitation services, including a hand washing station with soap and water. Global Hand washing Day that is annually celebrated on October 15 is a good opportunity to remind countries (Uganda) of this target.

Every year, 750,000 children die due to diarrhoeal diseases that stand as the second leading cause of death among children under five (WHO, 2013). Each year, 1.7million children die from diarrhea and pneumonia. Hand washing with soap can prevent these by up to a half and a quarter respectively.
For hand washing to be effective it must be practiced consistently at key times, such as after using the toilet or before contact with food. While habits must be developed over time, there is need to emphasise the importance of hand washing as a ritual behaviour for long-term sustainability. Habit formation is currently a hot topic in behaviour change and WASH sector.

It is our collective responsibility in our different capacities to work towards reminding policy makers and government about their role in ensuring access to hygiene facilities besides water access. When governments invest in hygiene facilities, they are also making smart investments in a healthy future. For hand-washing to be a habit, people must first have access to the proper resources for hand-washing – soap and water. The government of Uganda is engaged in efforts to ensure that every village has a water source to improve water accessibility
An estimated 15 per cent of patients globally develop one or more infections in hospitals. Strengthening healthcare systems through good hygiene can help keep patients safe during medical procedures.
Healthcare facilities can’t properly serve patients without soap and water.
Clean birth attendants’ hands are the first step to giving newborns a healthy start.

A key ingredient in the fight against under nutrition is good hand-washing. Make it a habit. Promoting hand-washing doesn’t mean making sure people have access to hygiene facilities, such as hand-washing stations with soap and water. These facilities must also be utilised because the benefits of hand-washing depend on people washing their hands consistently at key times. Behaviour change is essential for making hand-washing a habit.
Part of the causes of malnutrition in Uganda is because of not washing our hands with soap. Let us pledge to make hand-washing with soap a habit by washing your hands before handling food, after visiting the latrine, before feeding a baby and also after cleaning the baby’s bottom.
Ms Rubereti Omodi is a project officer , National Hand Washing Initiative.