Over 59,000 Nigeria children under the age of five die annually from preventable water and sanitation related diseases, the federal government has said.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, who said this at a news conference to commemorate the 2017 Global Handwashing Day on Thursday in Abuja, also noted that washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention.
He regretted that 87 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to handwashing facilities.
According to a report on Daily Trust newspaper, the minister, who spoke through the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Musa Ibrahim, also quoted the recently launched Nigeria WASH Diagnostic Report which indicates that 69 per cent of public health facilities do not have access to a basic functioning hand hygiene station.
While calling for the strengthening of the nation’s healthcare systems through good hand hygiene, especially during medical procedures, the minister noted that 15 per cent of patients globally develop one or more infections in hospital according to the 2015 reports of the World Health Organisation.
He said a series of events which include hygiene promotion training for teachers, community health workers among others have been lined up to mark the Day, which, he said, is aimed at engaging children as agents of change and create an awareness on the adoption of the habit of washing hands at critical times.
The United Nations General Assembly had in 2008 adopted every October 15 to mark the Day globally.
The water problem in Nigeria has however reached crisis point. No day passes without stories or news about cases of water-borne diseases caused by a chronic shortage of safe water making the rounds. It is no longer news that this problem has remained hydra-headed despite colossal sums of money budgeted by past and present governments.
Findings by Good Health Weekly reveal that for an average family of four in Lagos, a sizeable portion of their income is utilized to meet water requirements.
In 2012, the World Health Organisation, WHO, and United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF ranked Nigeria 3rd behind China and India as countries with the largest population without adequate water supply and sanitation coverage.