Leading consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G) has restated its commitment to promoting handwashing as an effective way to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
As part of its commitment, the company partnered with the ministries of environment and education to mark the 2021 Global Handwashing Day with the theme “Our future is at hand – let’s move forward together”, to sensitize and educate school children on the importance of handwashing over the weekend in Abuja.
In his goodwill message, P&G senior manager, Nigeria and Africa Expansion Markets Global Government Relations and Public Policy, Mr. Ridwan Sorunke, said handwashing has taken centre stage as one of the frontline defence mechanisms against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, reinforcing the message that hand hygiene is equally important in preventing diseases and protecting general health.
“This day is about taking action to increase access and the practice of handwashing with soap to foster community action on hand hygiene, in a bid to stop the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. As partners, it is important that we provide the tools and resources to sustain handwashing practices, especially in high-risk areas like markets, schools and hospitals,” he said.
Sorunke said the company made it a mission to ensure that this year’s Global Handwashing Day campaign increases awareness on the importance of handwashing with soap and drive habit change, especially among children.
He pointed out that at the peak of the pandemic, P&G stepped up as a force for good by supporting the Federal and state governments, including the FCT with humanitarian packages – hygiene products, handwashing stations and personal protective equipment – to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“As part of this contribution, P&G – through our Safeguard brand – also deployed hundreds of Safeguard handwashing stations and launched nationwide media awareness campaigns to promote handwashing amongst Nigerians.
“In our bid to commemorate the 2021 Global Handwashing Day, we have partnered the ministries of environment and the education to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap among secondary school students through the donation of handwashing stations and over 5,000 Safeguard soap [bars]. We have stationed low-cost mobile handwashing stations in schools so [that] children can wash their hands at key moments.
“We walk the talk on environmental sustainability. Globally, 100 per cent of our production sites are qualified as sending zero manufacturing waste to landfill, helping deliver tangible progress, to support our commitment towards creating a more circular supply chain,” he added.
Earlier in her remarks, the Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, said this year’s theme of the Global Handwashing Day was apt and timely, considering the critical role hand hygiene plays in preventing and controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“It is a fact that a large number of children die every year due to sanitation and hygiene-enabled diseases. Globally, basic hand hygiene is often neglected, due to lack of access to handwashing facilities in key places. Over 40 per cent of the world’s population or 3 billion people do not have handwashing facilities with water and soap at home.
“More than 3.5 million children suffer from diarrhea diseases and this is not a small figure. Children, who are less than 5 years old, are more prone to such diseases because of a lack of knowledge about the importance of handwashing. The simple act of handwashing with soap can reduce infections by 50 per cent and respiratory diseases by 25 per cent. Handwashing saves lives,” she restated.
Similarly, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, pointed out that hand hygiene becomes sustainable when pupils and students are involved in the campaign.
Represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Arc. Sonny Echono, Adamu said each year young people participate in the Global Handwashing Day celebration, they will always remember handwashing as one of the best steps to avoid getting sick. In addition, they will influence their peers, family members and the society positively.
The minister lauded the efforts of the ministry in ensuring that young people are not left behind in the universal call for hand hygiene, stressing that the knowledge of proper handwashing techniques will be institutionalized for posterity to promote the health and well-being of learners and the society.