By John Agaba and Sharon Kembabazi
Out of every 10 people in Uganda, only three wash their hands after visiting the toilet, cleaning the baby’s bottom and before eating, health minister Ruhakana Rugunda, has said.
Rugunda said this eating-without-washing-hands character after visiting the toilet is a time bomb waiting to explode.
He said the poor hygiene practices were responsible for many preventable disease in the country, among others, dysentery, cholera, diarrhea, and Hepatitis E “that continue to afflict our people.”
Uganda has had its share of these preventable diseases, the notable ones being dysentery and cholera. Last month, the death toll of the liver infection, Hepatitis E, hit 15 in Napak district.
“But most of these diseases are preventable. It is about the hygiene,” said Rugunda. “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.”
“Studies have shown that washing hands with soap after using a latrine, cleaning the baby’s bottom or before eating reduces incidence of diarrhoea by 47% and Acute Respiratory Infections by 30%,” he added
This was during the East and Southern Africa conference on sanitation at the Kampala Serena Hotel Tuesday.
The conference was organized by Water for People and the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.
Regional Technical Director WaterAid Uganda Frank Musinguzi (L) Country Director of IRC International Water a sanitation (C) Jane Nabunnya and the Executive Director Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Doreen Wandera interacting during a conference on sanitation.Picture by Wilfred Sanya
Rugunda said hand-washing was a better option for disease prevention than any single vaccine. Poor sanitation is a factor in child malnutrition, causing stunting and poor cognitive development of children which later affects their academic performance.
He said lack of sanitation contributes to about 10% of the global disease burden, caused by diarrheal diseases.