Ebola wash practices crucial for successful fight against scourge – businessday news you can trust businessday news you can trust r gas constant kj


Since the fresh outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus was reported in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a couple of weeks ago, individuals, organizations and governments have been raising concerns and proffering solutions to the seemingly intractable problem.

One of such organizations is WaterAid- an international charity organisation, working in 34 countries across the world- which says Nigerians and, indeed, the whole of Africa need to embrace the WASH practice to fight Ebola, insisting that efforts at fighting the scourge cannot be successfully sustained unless the world’s poorest are given the tools they need to fight the disease.

WASH is an acronym for clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene. The implication of this recommendation is that in homes, offices and other commercial areas including market places, water should be of top priority and should be available in sufficient quantity.

Unfortunately, clean water is a scarce commodity in most parts of Africa and access to it is extremely hard. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report notes that about 50 percent of schools and 42 percent of healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa are without access to water.

In Nigeria, almost a third (29 percent) of hospitals and clinics in the country do not have access to clean water, the same percentage do not have safe toilets and one-in-six (16 percent) do not have anywhere to wash hands with soap. This puts patients and healthcare workers at unacceptable risk of infection, including some of the most vulnerable members of society – new mothers and their newborns.

Therefore, it behoves governments at all levels to start prioritizing water in their considerations for critical infrastructure provision. The practice at the moment, especially in the cities where pipes from public mains are permanently dry, is for individuals to sink private boreholes for their water needs.

This explains why, according to WaterAid, one-in-five deaths of newborn babies in the developing world are caused by infections with a strong link to dirty water, poor sanitation and unhygienic condition, and that Nigeria has one of the largest numbers of neo-natal deaths worldwide.

“Good hygiene and, in particular, hand-washing with soap, have significant impact on the health and well-being of the global population. It was one of the ways in which Nigeria fought and won the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in 2014.

“We cannot be lax in our attitude and neglect to consistently practice good hygiene. Ebola is back on the continent and it is frightening to think that we could all be at risk if we don’t take the necessary precautions and early enough”, said ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Director, in a statement obtained by BusinessDay.

Ebola, a deadly disease which derived its name from a river in DRC when it was discovered there in the 1970s has been recorded nine times in that central African nation. The disease killed eight people in the country last year. WHO says a total of 42 Ebola virus disease cases has been reported in the country including 19 deaths.

There are other diseases such as monkey pox, cholera and Lassa fever in Nigeria which have continued to threaten public health in the country, and these diseases can spread further and faster if there are no sanitation and hygiene practices to check their path.

“WaterAid is committed to supporting the government of Nigeria, at all levels, to improve access to these basic life-saving services and integrate water, sanitation and hygiene in education and health for improved and holistic outcomes in these areas,” Aniagolu-Okoye assured.