BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
|H.E. Matilda Amissah-Arthur delivering the keynote address|
The effectiveness of sanitation facilities will only be multiplied if it is complimented by a crucial handwashing component, says Her Excellency, Matilda Amissah-Arthur, Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana.
Delivering the keynote address at a national durbar to commemorate five years of Global Handwashing Day celebration in Accra at her first public appearance since becoming second lady of Ghana, she stated; “By adding a crucial handwashing component to existing and ongoing sanitation activities, the critical health benefits necessary for countries including Ghana to achieve the MDGs can be realised.”
The Second Lady explained that promotion of handwashing with soap, which is the focus of Global Handwashing Day, is to help maximise the effect of sanitation and hygiene programmes.
She however lamented that in Ghana people wash their hands with soap for other reasons rather than for hygiene purposes and neglect the use of soap at critical times such as after using the toilet, after cleaning a child’s bottom and before handling food; especially before eating.
“Washing our hands before eating is often a perfunctory practice for most of us – we just dip our hands into water and look for soap with the best perfume to wash our hands after eating,” she challenged, adding, “In Ghana we wash our hands with soap for other reasons than hygiene: to get the smell of food off our hands and to prevent the pepper from the food from getting into our eyes.”
On the contrary, Mrs. Amissah-Arthur, said the main reason hands should be washed with soap at critical times, is so that the high incidence of diarrhoea diseases in the country, caused largely by ingesting of excreta, will be prevented.
“We should note that faeces contaminate our food through fluids, water bodies, our environment and surroundings, flies and our fingers. Diarrhoea can thus be prevented by stopping excreta from reaching the environment through proper sanitation and handwashing with soap,” she stressed.
Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the commemoration of Global Handwashing Day which had as its global theme, “Help more children reach their fifth birthday”, while the national celebration had for its theme; “Five Years of Global Handwashing Day Celebration: Going Beyond the Fifth Birthday of Children”.
Her Excellency, Matilda Amissah-Arthur, admonished all Ghanaians to put sanitation and hygiene in their proper perspective because sanitation is dignifying, while good hygiene behaviour promotes health.
She said although the focus of the celebration is on school children, everyone is a target and so handwashing with soap must be a way of life for all.
“As we commemorate the Global Handwashing Day to promote and give visibility to handwashing with soap in Ghana, let me say that promoting health and dignity are the first steps towards development and a better quality life,” she said.