CIVIL society organisations and the Ministry of Health have called on food outlets to provide handwashing facilities for their customers and staff to stem the prevalence of diarrhea and acute respiratory infections (ARI).
The organisations, which include the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), Technologies for Economic Development (TED) and the ministry issued a joint statement in Maseru on Monday ahead of Global Handwashing Day commemorations on 15 October 2015.
Global Handwashing Day is a campaign to motivate and mobilise people around the world to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands with soap at critical moments throughout each day. It is also meant to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
According to the press release, Global Handwashing Day would be commemorated in various places starting next Thursday in Maseru to 6 November 2015 in Mohale’s Hoek. This year, the commemorations will be held under the theme “Clean hands save lives! Raise a hand for hygiene!”
Among the activities lined up include educating vendors at commuter omnibus stations such as Sefika, Manonyane and Mafafa on the importance of providing handwashing facilities at their stalls. The commemorations will also be held in Thaba-Koto, Qhobosheaneng and Lehata in Qacha’s Nek district next week and in Leribe at a date yet to be announced. At the national commemorations in Mohale’s Hoek, the organisations are set to launch the “tippy-tap” – a hands free way to wash hands that is especially appropriate for rural areas where there is no running water.
The tippy-tap is operated by a foot lever to reduce the chance for bacteria transmission as the user touches only the soap.
TRC Water and Dams Monitoring Programme Officer, Hlalele Hlalele, said the campaign was meant to stem the spread of diseases caused by poor hygiene and sanitation. Diarrhea and ARIs such as pneumonia ranked highly among the main causes of admission in hospitals and the ensuing mortalities.
“A study conducted jointly by the Ministries of Health and Education in April 2014 found that parasitic infections such as soil transmitted helmithiasis (worms) had a national prevalence rate of 47 percent, with Butha-Buthe the worst hit at 99.2 percent followed by Leribe at 94 percent while Maseru was better at 12 percent rate,” said Mr Hlalele.
“Given that washing hands with soap could curb the spread of diseases by 45 percent, we have noticed that many businesses located in town do not offer water basins or handwashing facilities for customers.
“We therefore call on all food establishments to be provided with handwashing facilities for both handlers and customers in the formal and informal sector to make handwashing a priority before handling food in order to ensure hygiene, safety and protection of their valuable customers.”
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TED Director Mantopi Lebofa said they had made headway in previous campaigns to stem the spread of the diseases among young children.
“In the preceding years, we visited many primary schools to educate children on the importance of washing their hands before meals. Our efforts have borne fruit in such places as Maqhaka in the Berea District where we have noted a significant reduction in the prevalence of diseases such as diarrhea,” she said.
“Our campaign targeted the little ones because we wanted them to grow up knowing about good hygiene practices. Some schools have also built tippy taps.”
The Ministry of Health’s Environmental Health Specialist, Mosepeli Ratikane, said there were many health benefits in washing hands using running water after using the toilet and before eating.
“We want communities to learn that for one to be well sanitised, three conditions must be satisfied: the facility must be hands-free to avoid immediate contamination after washing, it must disperse running water and there must be a soak-away pit available if the facility is a tippy tap to dispose the dirty water. We also encourage washing hands with soap at all times,” Ms Ratikane said.