.. Ebola, other diseases are key reminders of hand washing in Liberia – By: WASH R&E “Media” Network –
Global Hand Washing Day was celebrated in Liberia under the theme; “Choose Hand Washing, Choose Health”.
The celebration brought together residents, prominent individuals and partners of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector of Liberia.
The spiralling Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including Liberia is an important reminder of the crucial role played by good hygiene and hand washing in protecting human health, says international development charity WaterAid.
Good hygiene and hand washing are critical in helping to prevent the transmission of many infectious diseases that are devastating communities across Africa, including Ebola, cholera, diarrhoea, and pneumonia.
But in many parts of the continent the services, such as sanitation, adequate water and soap supplies, and knowledge of appropriate hygiene practices are missing.
In Liberia the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF JMP 2012 Report shows that 25% are without clean water and 83% lack access to improved sanitation making washing hands and keeping clean a huge challenge.
Whilst information about the crucial importance of hand washing in stopping the spread of the Ebola virus is now being promoted across affected regions, in many communities elsewhere on the continent, the link between hygiene is less understood.
The cholera outbreak that has continued to plague Ghana since early summer further serves to highlight the poor levels of water and sanitation services that prevail in many African countries.
Such conditions not only aid the spread of disease but make it harder for healthcare services to contain infections from spreading.
Speaking on Global Hand Washing Day (15 October 2014) Chuchu Selma the Acting Team Leader of WaterAid Liberia/Sierra Leone said the tragedies consuming the West African countries affected by Ebola show what can happen when people lack a basic toilet, clean water and are not practising good hygiene, including hand washing.
“With half the hospitals in Africa without a suitable supply of clean water, and 35 percent of Africans also without clean water and 70 percent without basic sanitation, tackling and preventing disease outbreaks becomes a major challenge” stressed Mr. Selma.
He said while WaterAid is thankfully for the fight against the Ebola outbreak that has been the focus in Liberia, an estimate from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that about 11,849 of our people will die this year in our country because of diarrhoea and pneumonia, both of which we can help to tackle through hand washing with soap.
The WaterAid Acting Team Leader further stressed that while Global Hand Washing Day is a great opportunity for us to get the message out that we can help to protect ourselves and our families through regular hand washing with soap, we also have to repeat these messages and ensure that people are acting upon them each and every day if we are to tackle these and other public health emergencies.
Mr. Selma expressed that hope that Liberians and foreign residents will continue to prioritize hand washing even after the Ebola crisis, as it is done now.
Also speaking at the program held in Matidi, Monrovia, the Executive Director of the United Youth for Peace, Education, Transparency and development in Liberia called on Liberians to always make hand washing a regular practice to remain healthy.
Timothy Kpeh also called on the Liberian government to establish the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Commission to demonstrate that the President and her government want Liberians and foreign resident have access to improved WASH.
The Office of Montserrado, District # 9 Representative, Munah Pelham-Youngblood was also at the celebration marking Global Hand Washing Day.
Salinto Montgomery, the Administrative Assistant served as proxy for his Boss, Rep. Youngblood, pledging support to WASH activities.
He also commanded WaterAid on behalf of Rep. Youngblood for the construction of a modern latrine in the District for the disabled and community.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia, Augustine Myers challenged Liberians to see hand washing with soap as the best and easy means to prevent the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Mr. Myers equally expressed the hope that hand washing should remain a good and healthy practice in all communities across Liberia, even after Ebola is gone.
For his part, Assistant Public Works Minister for Community Services, George Yarngo said the issue of hand washing is an environmental issue, that should continue up till the end of Ebola in Liberia.
According to him, hand washing is very important and should be everyone’s business, meaning a practice that all should get actively involved with.
Minister Yarngo who is also the Chairman of the WASH Promotion Committee assured that materials for hand washing and sanitation currently being distributed by the “Wash Ebola Away” Campaign will be accounted for, as the Committee hopes to ensure a transparent process.
It takes place on October 15 of each year. The Campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of hand washing with soap as a key approach to disease prevention.
The first Global Hand Washing Day took place on October 15, 2008, the date appointed by the UN General Assembly in accordance with year 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation.