A schools hygiene program to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing among school-going children has been launched.
Reckitt Benckiser, through its flagship brand, Dettol in partnership with Practical Action and the County Government of Kisumu Friday launched the program which is in its pilot phase.
It is aimed at driving a student led school hygiene program as well reduce sanitation-related ailments among school-going children across the country. The pilot phase of the campaign targets to reach fifty (50) primary schools with a population of up to 50,000 children in Kisumu County.
The program comes barely two months to the Global Handwashing Day which is celebrated annually on 15th October.
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Speaking during launch earlier on Friday, Reckitt Benckiser Africa Expansion Director Health, Dele Adeyole said: “Dettol has over the years focused its interventions on school hygiene programs, targeting children in both urban and rural areas. Today we congregate here to commence an exercise that will not only reenergize the school handwashing program that has been spearheaded by Dettol for the past two decades but we are also starting a journey that will see us playing our role in reducing cases of hygiene-based diseases in our schools.”
The campaign will take a multi-faceted to ensure that school children pass on the knowledge to other vulnerable groups.
“First, we are showing them why it is important to wash hands properly, with soap and water and secondly how they can influence other children to maintain hygiene standard both at home and in school.” Mr. Dele added.
Every year, preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia claim the lives of 2.8 million children across the globe before they reach the age of five. The first 28 days of a child’s life are the most critical. In Kenya, more than 34,000 newborn babies die each year within their first month of life – a figure that translates to more than 90 deaths per day.
The Practical Action East Africa Regional Director, Farida Aliwa said that there is need for greater partnerships to tackle the sanitation challenges.
Speaking during the event Farida said, “Research shows that a large proportion of Kenya’s disease burden is caused by poor hygiene, inadequate sanitation practices and unsafe drinking water… there is need for renewed effort and commitment from all sector players – including parents, schools, government and private sector to save lives and reduce illness. It is vital that we combine our expertise in health, communication and community knowledge to raise awareness and promote hygienic and safe practices.”
Deaths can be significantly reduced if children, mothers and caregivers alike are taught to embrace hand washing which is a simple and powerful measure of reducing infectious disease being spread by hand contact.
On his part, Kisumu County Director of Health Dickens Onyango said that such initiatives will enable counties save millions of shillings spent in treating diseases by refocusing efforts toward preventive care.
“Kisumu County loses millions every year due to poor sanitation, this includes losses due to access time, premature death, health care costs and productivity. However, to ensure that we achieve Universal Health Coverage as envisioned by the government through its big 4 Agenda, greater focus has to be placed on primary health care, and particularly on prevention.”
“Low-cost high-impact interventions such as hand washing have proven to significantly reduce the number of children dying in Sub-Saharan Africa and should encouraged,” he explained.
Governments around the world have put efforts to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 6; “ensure access to water and sanitation for all, which is critical for successful realization of effective hand washing with soap”.
According to the WHO “Clean Care is Safer Care Programme”, between 2005 and 2015, the number of global deaths attributable to hygiene fell by more than 12%, whereas health cases decreased by more than 20%. This was attributed to hand washing with soap and access to clean water.