Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has called upon medical practitioners to teach the people the importance of hand washing.
The President, who was speaking at the Global Hand Washing Day celebrations, held today at Boma grounds in Kamuli district, Busoga Sub-Region, said that 47% of the diseases that affect people can be prevented through hand washing.
“Most illnesses are because of lack of knowledge. The trick is to understand the science of disease transmission. You should wash your hands with soap and do it properly,” he said.
The Ugandan leader said that he learnt a long time ago that one hand is his and the other is for the public.
“My right hand is for Uganda and my left hand is mine. During confirmation studies we were told to put the Eucharist on the left hand and use the mouth to pick and eat it. This was because the right hand would be dirty after greeting so many people,” he said.
The theme for the year’s Global Hand Washing Day was “Make Hand Washing a Habit”. The occasion is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding the importance of hand washing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent and save lives.
About 97 per cent of households in Uganda, regardless of economic status have soap. Yet the Uganda formative study (2007) and UBOS census (2012) indicated that the practice of hand washing with soap at critical junctures (after visiting the toilet, before eating or serving food and after cleaning the babies bottom is not widely practiced.
Soap, according to Eng. Joseph Oriono Eyatu, the Commissioner of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation at the Ministry of Water and Environment , is instead prioritized for laundry, bathing and washing utensils.
He was speaking at the Global Handwashing Day Editors’ breakfast at Hotel Africana, Kampala on Friday.
Eng. Eyatu said many Ugandans tend to ignore washing hands with soap yet in actual sense it’s the most simple and cheapest way of reducing deaths attributed to pneumonia and diarrhea especially among children under the age of five.
“Studies have shown that in Uganda, 32,500 children die every year due to diarrhea and pneumonia yet a simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children under five by 47 percent and Acute Respiratory Infections by 25 per cent,” he disclosed.
The commissioner also revealed that the ministry is in final plans to promote highway sanitation.
According to Eng. Eyatu, the ministry has already carried out feasibility studies regarding the hygiene of long route travelers across the country.
“We are planning to put up sanitation facilities like toilets with clean water, disposable dustbins, food stalls, and tourism sites on major highways across the country,” he said.
On the other hand, Mr. Robert Otim, the National coordinator of National Hand Washing Initiative at Ministry of Water and Environment said all government agencies and development partners should work hand in hand to surpass Hand Washing with Soap (HWWS) policies and strategies as a way of overcoming problems attributed to poor hygiene.
Mr. Otim further noted they organise hygiene week activities to popularise hand washing with soap. These activities include; school hygiene competitions, 30 minutes school hand hygiene lesson, Global Hand Washing Day hygiene performances, Global Hand Washing Day Expo, hygiene clean ups and Hand Washing With Soap Refugee settlements.
State Minister for Environment, Kintu Mary, said that only 36% of Ugandans wash their hands after visiting the bathroom, however, she added, “We want to promote hand washing not only when going to eat but also after visiting the bathroom, changing diapers and other activities,” she said.
Ms Kintu said that the Ministry of Water and Environment would work hand in hand with the Ministry of Education and Sports to ensure that the number of Ugandans who wash their hands increases to at least 80% by promoting hand washing among students because, she added, children are very good agents of change.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, requested President Museveni for construction of more hospitals in Kamuli district to cater for the increase in the population. “We ask government to plan for the population growth in Kamuli. People come to Kamuli Hospital from other districts for medical attention,” she said.
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