The celebration of Global Hand-washing Day yesterday in Accra brought out some interesting facts and information about health status and the need to sustain efforts in basic hygienic practices to enhance our socioeconomic wellbeing.
Significantly, it came to light that for the past three years, Ghana has not recorded any cholera case in the country, a clear manifestation that we are taking hygiene seriously, though there is much room for improvement.
Indeed, the COVID-19 global pandemic that came with the general awareness of the need to observe health and safety protocols of regular hand-washing with soap and for the use of alcohol-based hand rub products as most effective ways to prevent infection and reduce the spread of the pandemic has enhanced hygienic practice in the country.
We can safely say that it has helped in no small way to keep the disease at bay, even though we are not out of the woods yet and there is no room for complacency.
We recall with pain how 2014 cholera outbreak in Accra, which was largely due to poor sanitation, infected 3,100 people and claimed 40 precious lives.
We regret to say that if we had taken personal hygiene seriously like we do now, some of these deaths could have been avoided.
There is no need to cry over spilled milk but it suffices it to share in the sentiments expressed by the UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Anne-Claire Dufay, concerning the need for stakeholders to invest in water, sanitation and hygiene, as critical to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and making more progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This is against the backdrop of the fact that only 48.5 percent of Ghanaians practice good hand hygiene.
More worrying also is the fact that public places where people gather such as marketplaces and transport hubs lack access to hand-washing facilities.
Research has found that investing in hand hygiene yields dividend as it generates economic savings, improves productivity at workplaces and reduces absenteeism and work-related illness.
We commend the WHO and UNICEF and their partners for the laudable ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ initiative that is helping to save lives, especially among vulnerable groups.
We are aware that improving access to adequate sanitation facilities as national priority is a very good thing to do, given the fact that the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation has been created to spearhead the national agenda.
We entreat other stakeholder to see water, sanitation and hygiene sectors as new opportunities to increase investment to reap the benefit of a healthy society for sustainable development.
The time to invest in water, sanitation and hygiene is now more than ever before, given the fact that we are in the Decade of Action towards the Agenda 2030.
With only a decade left, indications are that we risk losing the targets for the realisation of SDGs meant to create prosperity for all, in a safe environment “so that no one is left behind”.
Already, a chunk of people are lagging behind in prosperity and one strategic pathway to prosperity is to invest more in the health sector.