Good hygiene practices lacking
Seventeen percent of children in Namibia suffer from diarrhoea every year.
22 October 2018 | Health
Juliet Kavetuna; Deputy minister of health and social services; “Hand washing is the affordable way of reducing diseases and can prevent many of the 272 million yearly school days lost to diarrhoea diseases.”
Otis Finck - The prevalence of incidents of diarrhoea in Erongo shows that hygiene practices in the region is very low and needs intervention from all sectors.
According to deputy minister of health and social services Juliet Kavetuna data on the number of diarrhoea cases in the Erongo region stood at 20 479 from 1 August 2017 to 1 August 2018. Of the recorded cases 1 371 were with blood and 19 108 without blood.
“The World Health Organisation estimates that 50% of malnutrition cases are associated with repeated diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene practices. Up to 70% of cases of diarrhoea are associated with poor food hygiene. This can lead to food borne illness which is a major cause of death among children under the age of 5. Thirty four percent of schools in the country also have no hand washing facilities on its premises.”
She called on political leaders, traditional leaders and church leaders to promote effective hand washing in communities in order to reduce the incident of diseases.
“Hand washing habits can improve access to education for children. The crucial times to wash hands with running water and soap are after visiting the toilet, changing baby’s nappies, sneezing and eating. Hands should also be washed before preparing and eating food.”
The deputy minister also emphasised that the promotion of hand washing with soap is estimated to reduce diarrhoea diseases by between 27 and 48%. Safe drinking water reduces it in children under 5 years with up to 15%.
She added that sanitation coverage in Namibia ranks very low in Southern Africa with its estimated 56% of communities (especially those in the rural areas) practising open-defecation.
“The Harambee Prosperity Plan is targeting to construct 56 000 sanitation facilities in all 14 regions by 2020. Some of our communities have gradually changed the practise of washing hands in common containers especially during family gatherings, weddings, funerals and informal restaurants.”
The country experienced an outbreak of hepatitis E in Khomas and more cases are still being reported. Over 3 000 suspected cases have been reported with nearly 500 laboratory confirmed cases and more than 23 lives claimed. About 400 cases were reported in Swakopmund.
“We must ensure that our communities have access to proper and adequate toilet facilities to address good hygiene practices. This will also help reduce diseases such as cholera, hepatitis E and many others.”