KAMPALA – When growing up Serapio Wodulo does not remember how many times he washed his hands after visiting the pit latrine or after greeting people.
He revealed that he would go to school, visit the latrine pit but when he came back home; he would straightaway reach for the saucepan to find food and eat straight away without remembering to wash hands.
He explained that efforts by his parents to compel him to wash his hands for hygiene reasons yielded nothing as he told them to wait until he got sick.
But today he says ever since Covid 19 outbreak in Uganda, he has had to wash his hands more than 30 times without being told.
“I have learnt that washing hands is the only safest way one can avoid Covid 19 but also avoid other hygiene-related diseases like dysentery, cholera, Cough, Flu and keeping other germs away,” said Wadulo of Bunabugu in Busiita sub-county, Sironko district.
Hand washing is a basic exercise in personal hygiene that most people learn as young children by regularly washing one’s hands which is widely promoted by everyone from mothers to infection control officers to the World Health Organization as an effective means of keeping germs and illness at bay.
This comes at the heels of a new data report by Sauti za Wananchi that indicates that since the Covid 19 break out, more than half of citizens (55%) report having washed their hands more than five times (for 24 seconds or more each time) the previous day.
The survey adds that around half of residents of the three districts of Kampala, Kyotera and Tororo report having washed their hands with soap and water five times or more on the day preceding the survey.
This data packet presents citizens’ views and experiences on handwashing in Uganda, during the time of the Coronavirus pandemic whereby hand hygiene is a critical weapon against the spread of the virus. How often do citizens wash their hands, and when? And what handwashing facilities do they have access to? It includes a special focus on the districts of Kampala, Kyotera and Tororo.
The data that comes from Twaweza’s Sauti za Wananchi survey, a nationally-representative, high-frequency mobile phone panel survey of public opinion and citizens’ experiences says these are among the nine out of ten (90%) citizens who did so three or more times.
The data presented on 13 October says further that most citizens cite hand washing or the use of sanitiser (87%) as one way of protecting themselves and others from infection, more than any other method.
“And this is followed by staying at home (72%) and maintaining distance from those with symptoms (49%). A smaller number mentioned the need to avoid touching the face (26%),” says the survey in part accessed by PML Daily.
The data explains that women, residents of urban areas and wealthier households report having washed their hands more often than others adding that Hand washing has now become the simple tool to promote public health and one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of disease—not just the Covid 19, but also diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid, cough, flu and other diseases.
This means that hand washing has improved from 2014 where 71% of Ugandans did not wash hands after visiting pit latrines to now more than 55% washing their hands regularly to avoid catching Covid 19.
Prime minister Mr Ruhakana Rugunda while addressing the East and Southern Africa conference on sanitation at the Kampala Serena Hotel said as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, millions of people are heeding the advice of health experts to wash their hands.
“Studies have shown that washing hands with soap after using a latrine, cleaning the baby’s bottom or before eating reduces the incidence of diarrhoea by 47% and Acute Respiratory Infections by 30%,” Mr Rugunda said.
Dr Rugunda explained that this eating-without-washing-hands character after visiting the toilet/Pit latrine is a time bomb.
Wadulo is not alone; many parents have been struggling to teach their children to wash hands in order to promote public hygiene with little success in the past but Covid 19 despite its negative effects has made handwashing improve among the citizens.
While presenting the report Ms Maria Nanyanzi said the data revealed that almost all households (99%) report having water available for handwashing, and almost as many (96%) report having soap available and that this is up from 76% (water) and 69% (soap) when a similar question was in mid-2019.
She revealed that access to water and soap is consistently high across urban and rural areas and in both urban and rural households. However, wealthier (37%) and urban (44%) households are considerably more likely to have access to running water from a tap than poorer (13%) and rural households (15%).
She explained that today due to Covid 19, Citizens cite hand washing as the best way of protecting themselves and others from the Coronavirus
“Eight out of ten households (83%) report having handwashing facilities with soap close to their toilet facility, and slightly more (88%) say they have water available for handwashing and these figures are largely consistent across urban and rural areas and between wealthier and poorer households, this means that access to handwashing facilities with either water or soap has increased markedly since 2019,” said Ms Nanyanzi.
Dr Dominic Waburoko of St Martin’s health Clinic in Mbale says hand-washing is a better option for disease prevention than any single vaccine and that poor sanitation is a factor in child malnutrition, causing stunting and poor cognitive development of children which later affects their academic performance.
“Lack of sanitation contributes to about 10% of the global disease burden, caused by diarrheal diseases and hand washing is.
“Safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services are an essential part of preventing and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks, including the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Waburoko who also noted that hand washing has improved across the country.
Reports across the country before Covid 19 outbreak indicated that about 30% of Ugandans have no adequate sanitation facility while 71% do not wash their hands after using a latrine, cleaning the baby’s bottom or before eating.