Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First lady of the Republic of Ghana, has said available statistics indicate that diarrhea kills about 14,000 children under five years annually in the country.
She said the figure gives cause for worry and called on all to join the forces to intensify efforts at preventing such avoidable deaths.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said this at the commemoration this year’s Global Handwashing Day by Lifebuoy Soap held under the theme, “Our hands, Our Future” in Accra.
It was organised by the Unilever Ghana Limited to promote the practice of hand-washing with soap as well as foster access to improved hygiene facilities in the country.
The First Lady said her interest in the welfare of children led her to established the “Save a child, save a mother” campaign aimed at preventing the numerous deaths of babies at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.
“Through the enormous support I received from individuals and organisations, work is progressing steadily on the project,” she said and thanked Unilever Ghana Limited for contributing generously to the caurse.
She expressed satisfaction with Unilever Ghana’s resolve to support caurses that serve the interest of children by initiating earlier the Social Mission to help a child reach five and the “High5 for handwashing – Give us a high5 and we’ll teach 5 kids handwashing” to mark this year’s Global Handwashing Day.
Globally Lifebuoy is targeting 200,000 High5s this year with the objective of highlighting awareness about its commitment to handwashing with soap under running water before breakfast, lunch, dinner, after visiting the toilet and during daily bath.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said significance of children’s hands to their health and for that matter their future cannot be understated, saying, “it is important that we as adults educate them to wash their hands, not with just water but with soap under running water”.
She announced that the Rebecca Foundation would be partnering the Unilever Ghana Limited in providing free Veronica buckets and soap to all schools to encourage handwashing at all levels.
Mr Ziobeieton Yeo, Managing Director of Unilever Ghana Limited, said October 15 was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly as a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
He said they decided to commemorate the day two days earlier because the actual day falls on a Sunday.
Mr Yeo said Unilever Ghana found it worrying that although people around the world clean their hands with water, very few use soap to wash their hands.
“Even when there is available, it is sometimes reserved for laundry and bathing instead of for handwashing. Washing hands with soap removes germs much more effectively than doing so with only water,” he added.
Mr Yeo said without a doubt, protection of health and wellbeing of people is a priority for Unilever, “we meet every day needs for nutrition; hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life”.
He announced that Unilever Ghana Foundation, recently handed over seven newly constructed hygiene stations to selected basic schools within the Tema metropolis at a total cost of GHC 800,000 to help enhance the sanitation and hygiene needs of Ghanaians.
It is estimated that over 3,800 pupils and additional 6,500 community members would benefit from the facilities.
Madam Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, commended Unilever for the tremendous support for children.
She said the Ministry’s mandate involves the promotion of the survival and development of children and ensuring their rights through the help of stakeholders such as Unilever Ghana Limited.
Madam Djaba announced that the Ministry is initiating a partnership scheme with Unilever Ghana Foundation to achieve the goal of reaching out to children to protect them from diseases and urged other private entities to join hands with them to achieve the goal.
Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Minister for Education, in a speech read on his behalf, said Unilever Ghana’s support would go a long way to reduce absenteeism in the country’s schools significantly.
He said one of the key constraints of hand washing in most rural communities schools is the affordability of soap and thanked Unilever Ghana for providing free Lifebuoy soap and Veronica Buckets to schools and reaching over two million pupils with the “School of 5 Programme”.
Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, Minister of Health, pledged the Ministry’s support to achieve the target of 200,000 High5s this year and urged all health workers to join the effort at their facilities.