By MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Hand hygiene has never been more critical, not only to combat Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but to prevent a range of other infections.
Yet, nearly six months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most vulnerable communities around the world continue to lack access to basic hand hygiene.
Word Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed the view while urging developing countries to scale up investment in water, sanitation and hygiene to control COVID-19 that is currently ravaging all parts of the world..
As the world struggles to cope with the new disease, one of the most effective tools to prevent its spread is also one of the most basic, the two United Nations (UN) organs said in a joint statement on 26th June 2020.
“According to our latest data, the majority of people in the least developed countries are at immediate risk of COVID-19 infection due to a lack of hand hygiene facilities. In the 60 highest-risk countries, 2 out of 3 people – 1 billion people in total – lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. Around half are children,” they wrote in a news release.
They pointed out that all too often, schools, clinics, hospitals and other public spaces also lack hand hygiene facilities, putting children, teachers, patients and health workers at risk.
“Globally, 2 in 5 health care facilities do not have hand hygiene at points of care,” they regretted, stressing:“We cannot overstate the threat.
The two international authority on public health and children’s well-being observed that many of the those who lack access to basic handwashing live in overcrowded, desperately poor conditions.
They noted that even before the pandemic, children and families faced barriers to accessing health and hygiene services.
“Now the grave risk of COVID-19 threatens further suffering and spread of this deadly disease.
“If we are going to control COVID-19, we have to make hand hygiene accessible to all. That is why we are launching a new global initiative to move the world towards the same goal: supporting the most vulnerable communities with the means to protect their health and environment.
“We are joining our efforts with those of other international partners, national governments, public and private sectors, and civil society organizations to ensure affordable products and services are available, especially in disadvantaged areas, and to enable a culture of hygiene,” WHO and UNICEF explained.
.They advised that public health response plans and reopening plans should couple physical distancing and other control measures with hand hygiene and access to safe water and sanitation, and must reach the most vulnerable communities.