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Launch of hand washing campaign in Abuja



It is my great pleasure and privilege to deliver this good will message on this very important occasion of the National launch of Hand Washing Campaign in Nigeria. I am particularly pleased that this campaign is being launched by the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua despite her very tight schedule, demonstrating the importance and significance of this event.

Distinguished, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you may all be aware, this year was declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Sanitation with the primary objective of mobilizing both political and financial support for accelerating progress on sanitation development.

Here in Nigeria, the Hand Washing Campaign is one of three targets outlined in the Action Plan developed by stakeholders for commemoration of the 2008 International Year of Sanitation (IYS). The two other targets are creating enabling environments to sustainably expand sanitation and hygiene Programmes and construction of one million latrines.

There are a lot of scientific evidences showing the significance of hand washing at critical moments to reduction in diarrhea which is the second leading cause of death amongst Nigerian Children (after malaria). The most recent study indicates that hand washing can reduce diarrhea episodes by about 30% and up to 47% reduction has been achieved in some cases.
The diarrhea prevalence rate in Nigeria is 18.8% and is one of the worst in sub-Sahara Africa and above the average of 16%. Diarrhea accounts for over 16% of child deaths in Nigeria and an estimated 150,000 deaths mainly amongst children under five occur annually due to this disease mainly caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

Diarrhea is also closely linked to mal-nutrition, a condition that is associated with more than half of all under-five deaths. Undernourished children, in turn, have compromised immune systems and at higher risk for developing pneumonia – which also contribute to high children mortality in the country. This chain reaction illustrates that good hygiene practices such as hand washing are critical for child survival and development.

Several studies have also indicated that hand washing with soap may also have as much as 40% reduction in Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) amongst children. ARI and diarrhea are the two leading killers of children world wide and this shows that hand washing with soap is by far the most cost effective intervention for the reduction of child mortality and morbidity.

As Avian Human Influenza becomes an ever greater risk in the country, this campaign will also provide us opportunity to once again reinforce the importance of hand washing with soap to reduce the risk of spread of this disease.

Recognizing the importance of hygiene promotion especially hand washing to the overall child survival and development, UNICEF has been partnering with governments and private sector in the promotion of hand washing campaigns at State, LGA and Community levels including in schools since 2005. In collaboration with Unilever Nigeria Plc and government partners, Hygiene Promotion projects are being implemented in 222 schools in all the 36 States and FCT and as part of the project, hand washing campaigns have been launched in 200 schools and communities in 30 States sensitizing over 2.5 million people on the importance of hand washing.

This year Hand Washing Campaign is dedicated to International Year of Sanitation and the target is to sensitize 30 million people all over the country about the importance of hand washing and promote a rejuvenation of this practice as a national culture. The key message is “Stay Healthy: Wash your hands regularly.” 

We have the opportunity of this year being International Year of Sanitation to make a difference in laying a solid foundation for sustained hygiene and sanitation promotion in the country. So let’s make the best of it by supporting this campaign and other activities planned for implementation during the year.

Your Excellency let me end this good will message by expressing our appreciation to the government partners and private sector that have organized this campaign. It is our hope that similar campaigns would be organized in all the States and LGAs to sensitize 30 million people on the need for hand washing after visiting toilets and before handling food.

Thank You and God Bless.




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