Provision of basic sanitation and hygiene service delivery that encourages a handwashing promotion culture within the Nigerian population, has been identified as a key strategy towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on Health.
To this end, effective and sustained handwashing promotion targetted at the rural and urban neighbourhoods and households, has been put forward.
This and other resolutions taken at a handwashing symposium held in Abuja last week, acknowledged that the encouragement of a habit of regular handwashing with soap and water, is guaranteed to significantly cut down the transmission risk of diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, impetigo, and acute respiratory-tract infections.
The event, with the theme "Making Big Differences through Small Actions", was convened by the Nigerian Infections Control Association, NICA, for the Promotion of Handwashing with Soap in conjunction with the National Task Group on Sanitation and Unilever Plc, through its Lifebuoy social mission to bring safety, security and health to people across the world.
"Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on health could be actualised through the simple practice of hand washing," noted the Managing Director, Unilever Nigeria Plc, Mr Thabo Mabe.
Mabe, who described handwashing with soap as an important public health issue because the pathogens responsible for many common illnesses such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory tract infections are readily transmitted via contact with hands, but can be dramatically reduced through handwashing with soap.
"Adoption of the simple handwashing behaviour would greatly reduce the disease burden in Nigeria, which spends millions of naira on treatment of diarrhoea annually with the paediatric death toll due to diarrhoeal illness exceeding that of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Supporting this health symposium is a demonstration of our eagerness to explore available opportunities in health development like we have done in other countries across the globe."
The event was a suitable platform for deliberation on key policy actions and programmes to improve health through hand washing with soap in Nigeria, as well as Unilever's contribution to addressing the Global hygiene and health challenge and its social mission on hand washing.
Stakeholders reviewed the recent studies conducted by the NICA and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and other studies on hand washing in Nigeria which reflect key findings and gaps in knowledge and recommendations for the way forward were also reviewed.