Today is the Global Hand-washing Day!
Yes, hand washing. One of the challenges Africa faces is disease. Disease afflicts all people, irrespective of their age and sex. Some diseases can be prevented, merely, by you washing your hands.
On a good note, did you know that by washing your hands, you reduce your risk of catching a diarrheal disease by 48 percent?! On a sad note, did you know that Kenya loses 30,000 lives very year due to diseases related with diarrhea?
The constitution of Kenya, just like that of Uganda, of Tanzania, of Rwanda and even Burundi, makes provision for health rights. These rights are to be enjoyed by every citizen. The World Health Organization constitution enshrines the right to the highest attainable standard of health as fundamental to every human being. The WHO constitution further provides that the right to health includes access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality.
However, the highest attainable standard often comes at a cost which is unaffordable to the world’s largest population. Nearly half of the world’s population, which is about 3 billion people lives on less than 250KES a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty, on less that 125KES a day. 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty.
This does not look like the kind of world where everyone is entitled to the highest standard of health, a standard that comes at a cost.
But then, there are things we can do. Things that do not necessarily come at a huge cost. Things like washing our hands at key times, such as after using the toilet, and before coming in contact with food.
This helps to prevent diseases which are spread through dirty hands.
No doubt, hands must be washed with soap and water. This therefore means that the water must be clean. Otherwise, it is pointless to wash ones hands with dirty water. In the world, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases. These are sad statistics.
It is therefore incumbent upon our governments to ensure that citizens have access to clean water. In conformity with the Constitution and the National Health Policy, the Kenya government has developed the Kenya Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Policy (2016-2030) which provides for the universal access to improved sanitation. This should not be one of those policies that gather dust on a shelf. It should be implemented.
Lives will be saved, especially the lives of children, of which a considerable number (16% of deaths of children below 5 years) occur due to diarrheal diseases.
Let us practice preventive health care. Let us make hand-washing a habit.
BY SAMALI BITALA