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Only 27 Percent of Ugandans Wash Hands After Toilets-New Survey

posted 26 Jun 2013, 22:37 by Sekuma Peter

More Ugandans are at risk of getting killed by preventable infections because of their reluctance to wash their hands after visiting lavatories.

A new 2012/2013 survey by National Hand Washing Campaign (NHWC), indicates that only 27 percent of people who used lavatories, washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections.

The case study titled: "Hand Washing With Soap (HWWS) in Uganda", was done in 30 districts based on household observations and schools, focusing on how people in their homes and children in schools use soap after visiting washrooms.

However, the findings show an increase on the number of people who wash hands using soap after visiting washrooms from 3% in 2010 and 10% in 2011, to 27% in 2012/2013.

The Eastern and Northern Central Regional Coordinator for NHWC, Dennis Alioni attributes the slight increase to the sensitization campaigns through local radio stations in different parts of the country. But Alioni is also quick to note that the number is still too small.

"We discovered that radio is the most effective channel of communication that people had adopted. We found out that 74% of Households use containers & basins, an indicator that the washing is still ineffective," Alioni said.

According to statistics of households using soap and water in different regions, Central 1 has the highest with 45%, Kampala (42%), Western (32%), Central 2 (27%), North (18%), South West (16%), East Central (12%), Eastern (10%), West Nile (6%) and Karamoja (2%).

The study notes that although HWWS is recognized as a major way of preventing diarrhea diseases by up to 50% (Curtis 2003) and Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) by about a quarter (Rabie 2006), it has remained a low practice among schools and households.

"Although a number of small-scale interventions have been undertaken in Uganda in the past, there is no reliable data on hand washing practices. There has been no clear reasons why people wash or do not wash their hands with soap" reads the report.

The National Sanitation Working Group (NSWG) intends to design and execute a national hand washing with soap campaign aimed at increasing the rates of hand washing with soap at key junctures among the groups most susceptible to diarrheal diseases.

The groups include children below five years through their caretakers, and school-age going children between (6-13 years).

The study observed that the hand washing with soap behavior by caretakers after cleaning babies' bottoms increased from 19% to 31%, while the percentage of those cleaning their hands with soap before feeding a baby has slightly increase from 6% to 8%.

According to National Sanitation Working Group study 2004/2005, more than 3-5 million children aged less than five years die from diarrhea and acute lower respiratory-tract infection all over the world annually.

It also points out that most of these deaths are concentrated in low-income communities in developing countries.

Several studies have shown that regular hand washing with soap reduces the incidence of diarrhea in children less than five years in most vulnerable communities.

A recent review of scientific evidence UNICEF suggests that hand washing with soap can prevent around 47% of diarrheal infections even in poor areas that have inadequate sanitation.

The study observes that regular hand washing with soap is very effective in preventing diarrhea and respiratory disease, two of the leading causes of global childhood death.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, hand washing is the single most effective thing one can do to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Failing to sufficiently wash one's hands contributes to nearly 50 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks.

CDC also notes that it takes 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous HWWS and water to effectively kill the germs, yet the NHWC new study found that people are only washing their hands, on average, for about 6 seconds.