Concern Universal, a UK-based nongovernmental organization, has launched a month-long campaign to promote hygiene among school children that will coincide with this year’s Global Handwashing Day.
At a press conference held in Lagos, Friday, the group said the campaign would be the largest ever celebration of Global Handwashing Day in Nigeria.
“Global hand washing day was started eight years ago by the United Nations in recognition of a hygiene crisis,” said Tim Kellow, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Concern Universal.
“Because even though most of us know about hand washing, we know we should wash our hands, and we probably know we should do it with soap, but for some reason, this is not happening.
“Recent research shows that as few as one in ten school children in Nigeria are effectively washing their hands with soap. This is a huge problem, and the solution is cheap, the solution is washing your hands with soap and water.”
Global Handwashing Day is an annual celebration involving over 200 million people coming together every 15th October to promote a simple and life-saving message – handwashing with soap saves lives.
Hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhoea cause one in five Nigerian children to die each year, according to the World Health Organization, but almost half of the deaths are preventable by washing hands with soap.
Mr. Kellow said children are the major focus of the campaign, adding that fun activities would be created to make them see the importance of washing their hands, as well as understand that germs are invisible and “not just the dirt you see after playing.”
“As habits take up to four weeks to form, we are holding a month-long campaign to engage children with fun and creative activities to promote the handwashing habit,” Mr. Kellow said.
“At events across Nigeria, children will be inspired by songs recorded exclusively by Sunny Neji and 2Face Idibia, and empowered as ‘Hygiene Heroes’ – handwashing promoters trained to transfer the life-saving habit to their schools, families, and communities.”
The campaign will climax on October 15 with the campaign ambassador, Sunny Neji, performing alongside his band, comedian Koffi, and other special guests.
“Children will take part in handwashing games and demonstrations that will empower them to return to their schools and communities and spread the campaigns vital message,” said Mr. Kellow.
“Schools will also compete to show that they have the ‘CareX Factor’ – this talent competition enables children to get creative about hand washing by performing their own version of Sunny Neji’s campaign anthem ‘Wash Your Hands O’.”
Sunny Neji described the campaign as “a wonderful initiative.”
“How did I become involved in this? I was actually in my village, in my hotel room in my village and came downstairs,” the singer said.
“There was a large crowd outside, I said ‘what’s going on here? What’s the attraction?’ They said that there’s an NGO here in the village trying to educate the people about better hygiene.
“I said I’m sure there’s something I can do to assist. So that was how I got in touch with them. I have experience. Before I became Sunny Neji the musician, I actually cut my niche in recording commercials. I can drive this campaign with a very good song.”
Concern Universal says it is partnering with PZ Cussons to promote the campaign.
“The events kick-off in Cross River and Benue states, with the campaign culminating in a major celebration event in Lagos on Global Handwashing Day itself – Saturday, October 15 – where schools will compete against each other for fantastic prizes and the chance to perform with their musical heroes,” said Mr. Kellow.