Oshakati — Namibia is listed among the countries in Southern Africa with the lowest level of sanitation coverage with an estimated 1.3 million people without proper toilet facilities.
The number is even higher in rural areas where 84 percent of the rural population has no access to proper toilet facilities.
According to the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Petrina Haingura, 58 percent of children who die before the age of five die because of pneumonia and diarrhoea-related diseases caused by poor sanitation.
In the Oshana Region, the number of cases of diarrhoea with blood and without blood is estimated to be 11 580, with 50 deaths recorded from January to September 2012.
“This shows that hygiene practices in this region are very low and need intervention from all sectors. I therefore call upon school principals to ensure they have hand washing facilities at their schools,” she said.
She said many die from preventable and curable illnesses caused by poor hygiene practices.
Speaking at the national commemoration of the Global Hand Washing Day at the Oshakati Independence Stadium, she revealed that 34 percent of Namibian schools have no hand washing facilities, while 35 percent of schools have no toilets.
“Simple hand washing with soap can avert over 60 percent of deaths attributed to bad sanitation,” stressed the deputy minister of health.
Thousands of children, teachers, and environmental and local government officials in the Oshana Region, on Monday joined millions across the world to commemorate the 4th Global Hand Washing Day at the Oshakati Independence Stadium.
This year’s commemoration was themed, “Help More Children Reach their 5th Birthday.” Children from primary schools in Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa actively participated in social mobilization activities including float parades, drama and hand washing with soap demonstrations.
These activities were aimed at increasing awareness and understanding the importance of hand washing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent life-threatening diseases such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections.
Haingura went on to say that the washing of hands is meant to prevent harmful germs from making people ill. She said if only people make it a point of duty to wash their hands every day, it would help protect them from diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, as well as help to prevent food contamination.
According to the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef), diarrhoea is a leading cause of death for children under the age of five in Namibia, accounting for around 23 percent of deaths. Pneumonia accounts for 25 percent of all deaths, while malnutrition accounts for another 9 percent.
“This means that well over half of all child deaths in Namibia are related to the lack of access to sanitation and safe water as well as poor hygiene practices,” said Unicef country representative Micaela Marques de Sousa.
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