The Coordinator, School Health Initiative, Dr Maimuna Isah, on Tuesday called on authorities to intensify efforts in the teaching of sanitation and hygiene education in schools.
Isah said promoting hygiene and sanitation was important for prevention of diseases and deaths, especially among under-five children.
She said many Nigerians do not practice regular hand-washing at critical times, adding that with hygiene education, citizens would be healthy and live longer.
“It is very important because most of the illnesses we have is because of poor hygiene.
“If you don’t wash your hands when you are about to eat or after going to the toilet, it is not good to just eat whatever is in your hands.
“If the children know about hygiene, it will help them and it will stop untimely deaths, especially in under-five children.
“We know that most under five children are not in school, but some start at the age of two, so it is very important that we teach hygiene from the home and also in schools.
“I sincerely don’t believe that they are making a lot of emphasis on hygiene in schools, because occasionally, I ask children and they don’t look as if they know much about it.
“They have to put more emphasis on it like they use to do before.’’
The coordinator said advocacy and awareness creation was ongoing in schools on the need to educate children on hand washing, disease prevention and acting as ‘change agents” to peers and family members.
According to her, about 50 per cent of diseases such as diarrhea, eye infections, skin diseases, cholera and typhoid that children contract will be cut off if they know how to wash their hands regularly.
“If you wash your hands with soap and water, it will help.
“When you go to the toilet, wash your hands with soap and water.
“Before you touch any food, wash your hands with soap and water.
“Before you eat, you do the same, and even after shaking people you go and wash your hands with soap and water, it is very important.
“Don’t deceive yourself by saying I have to buy anti-bacterial soap, it’s not necessary, just use soap, if you are in the rural areas, use ash,” she said.
Isah said it was saddening to note that Nigeria was still among the countries worst hit by diarrhea and all other childhood killer diseases.
Speaking on the challenge in Nigeria, she said many mothers believed that the most critical times for hand washing with soap for their children were before eating, after using the toilet and after handling dirty things.
She said this culture needs to be reversed by making hand washing with soap a habit in the daily routine and as a social norm.
She said it was not necessarily a problem of scarcity of water or lack of soap because most people use soap as a priority in laundry, bathing and washing.
Diarrhea and pneumonia are leading causes of death for children under the age of five.
Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent these diseases.
This simple behavior can save lives, cutting diarrhea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.