Tackling Poverty and Improving Hand Hygiene Go Hand In Hand


Be part of the Sanitation Solution: Tackling Poverty and Improving Hand Hygiene Go Hand In Hand

“CLEAN HANDS – A Recipe for Health”

… Liberia National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Commission celebrates Global Handwashing Day on 15 October, announces New Hand Hygiene Monitoring Initiative

12 October 2018, Monrovia, Liberia

Monday 15 October is Global Handwashing Day! This year, the Global Handwashing Day theme focuses on the links between handwashing and food including food hygiene and nutrition. The National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Commission will join Liberians across the country and millions around the world to highlight the role that clean hands can play in preserving and saving lives. The benefits of handwashing go beyond protecting one’s own health. Good handwashing can prevent disease outbreaks as was observed during the Ebola epidemic, reduces absenteeism in schools and workplaces, as well as improve productivity and healthcare outcomes.

Handwashing is an important element of food safety, disease prevention and has been proven to contribute to the healthy growth of children. The commission’s theme, “Be part of the sanitation solution: Tackling poverty and improving hand hygiene go hand in hand”, reminds us that handwashing is a vital part of fighting poverty.

The Commission’s Chairman and CEO, Hon. Bobby Whitfield, reflects on this theme when he asserts: “On this Global Handwashing Day we want to encourage people to take action to prevent the spread of diseases. It offers us an opportunity to celebrate, to debate policies, challenges, and the monitoring of behavior in different settings, and discuss cost-effective sanitation interventions that could prevent diseases and save Liberian lives every year”

“Clean hands reduce the burden of disease by preventing the spread of harmful germs. As part of the Weah-led government’s “Pro-Poor” Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), we must all play our role in stopping the spread of harmful bacteria,” Hon. Whitfield said.

Drawing on the findings of extensive research in the field of WASH, the commission points out that, handwashing globally is linked to a 47% reduction in risk of endemic diarrhea, 21% reduction in risk of acute respiratory infections, 50% reduction in risk of pneumonia, substantial reductions in newborn infections, and improved absorption of nutrients.

“Teachers, doctors, nurses and other workers who meet students and patients, as well as the public can all help. Ask your professionals whether at a school, a hospital or at a restaurant, ‘have you washed your hands?’ Handwashing with clean water and soap, or sanitary rubs are simple but effective and inexpensive ways of stopping the spread of harmful germs.

Hon. Whitfield further stressed that there has been “some progress” regarding government’s commitment to sanitation, however, poor hand hygiene compliance has remained a challenge and is a major factor in the spread of diseases within communities, hospitals, schools, and workplaces. Improving hand hygiene could considerably minimize disease spread and has been prioritized by the Commission as a benchmark of Safety and Quality in service delivery.

Under the Education Reform Act of 2011, Public Health Law and other Regulations, education services, health services, workplaces, hotels, restaurants, motels, and all Liberians have civil responsibilities regarding health and hygiene. These institutions are required to develop hand hygiene policy to ensure that the health, safety, well-being and best interests of those they serve are met.

As the commission with the mandate to promote and regulate the development, management of water, sanitation and hygiene services and serves as the principal government entity on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) throughout the Republic of Liberia, the Commission Hand Hygiene Monitoring Initiative, a national approach to improving hand hygiene and to monitor its effectiveness will take effect beginning the next budget year July 1, 2019.

Every year, 1.4 million children die from diarrhea or pneumonia globally. Infections cause 15% of newborn deaths. In Liberia, Diarrhea is the primary cause of death every year.
Handwashing is included in SDG 6, and in target 6.2 for sanitation and hygiene. The goal and target call on countries to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.
To ensure Liberia meets its target by 2030, The Hand Hygiene Monitoring Initiative aims to improve hand hygiene compliance across Liberia and in public settings, as such all schools, hospitals, clinics, restaurants, hotels, public agencies, and corporation including all serving the public must develop a Hand Hygiene or Hand Washing Policy and their Hand Hygiene Compliance rates required by law.

Achievement of targets on hygiene and handwashing is important for attaining other targets such as those on child survival, nutrition, education, equity, and gender Hon. Whitfield intoned.
The participation of all stakeholders regarding the development of their Hand Washing Policy beginning next year will be a great news, but, if we hope to engage in a Transformative Future to reach this worthwhile goal, we must break out of our ‘business as usual’ approach and improve on existing best practices. The sector needs new approaches to behaviour change and the law will take its course.

There is a role for everyone in this fight, ranging from washing hands to observing the five moments for hand hygiene, to ensuring institutions across our country have best practice hand washing policy on sanitation control processes.

So, on Monday 15 October, we call on all across the length and breadth of this beautiful country to come to a total stop for 5 – 10mins from 11 am as we observe Global Hand Washing Day. Let’s remember to wash our hands every day! Don’t also forget to get our kids involved, most especially the under 5. “CLEAN HANDS SAVE LIVES”.

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