By Gifty Arthur
A campaign to prevent children from dying before they attain age five, has been launched with a call on everyone, especially caregivers, mothers, to necessarily adopt and practice, hand washing for themselves and their children at all times.
The initiative launched last Friday in Accra by Unilever Ghana Limited, is a social mission campaign dubbed, ‘Help a Child Reach 5’ to be rolled out nationwide, to deepen public awareness on the benefits and importance of effective hand washing, especially to children.
The objective of the campaign, is to eradicate under-five mortality resulting from preventable diseases such as cholera by promoting among the general public, especially mothers and children, lifesaving hand washing habits, involving simple hand washing behaviour before breakfast, lunch, dinner, after visiting the toilet, and during bathing.
The ‘Help a Child Reach 5’ campaign will among others raise awareness about the critical contribution of hand washing with running water and soap, to prevent children from infection-causing germs. It will mobilize the Ghanaian society to adopt and practice hand washing with soap during the five occasions.
Already, the campaign is being implemented in three regions and according to Unilever Ghana Limited; it has helped reduce the annual child mortality rate, from over 60 thousand from 2013 to 29 thousand annually, which gives them hope that if the campaign is intensified across the country, the figures will further reduce drastically.
According to Unilever, so far, an impressive 2 million children have been reached with support from Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) who have provided over 2600, Veronica Buckets to schools to aid the campaign.
The Managing Director (MD) of Unilever, Ziobeieton Yeo, said that his outfit is committed to ensure that the campaign makes the necessary impact as it did decades ago abroad.
He explained that the campaign which is a corporate social responsibility programme became necessary because of the scary number of children worldwide who die unnecessarily from preventable diseases such as cholera.
“This initiative has been necessitated by the huge numbers of children under the age of 5 across the world, who die each year from diseases that can be prevented by merely making one lifestyle change; washing hands with soap under running water”, he said. He said aside reaching children and teachers in part of the country; the national campaign is also to reach new mothers and health professionals.
The Director of Personal Care Unilever Ghana Nigeria, Nana Yaa Kissi, said that through the initiative, “We will raise awareness about the critical contribution of hand washing with soap under running water to prevent children from infection-causing germs and mobilize Ghanaians to adopt this habit”.
She added “Parents have aspirations for their children and children have ambitions but these are aborted or cut short by a little germ innocently picked and consumed because a child or parent does not wash their hands soap and water. She explained that this simple habit of washing hands with soap can reduce infant deaths by 25 percent and ensure more children live to reach the age of 5”.
Deputy Minister for Health, Tina Mensah, who described the initiative as a “timely intervention which will contribute immensely to reduce child mortality” said that the ministry in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has “set ourselves the goal of reducing neonatal mortality rate from 32 per 1000 live births in 2011 to 21 per 1000 live births by 2018.
While applauding Unilever for the campaign, she assured government will ensure nurses and midwives intensify the education of pregnant women to embrace hand washing with running water and soap, while touching or feeding their children.
“We therefore commend Unilever Ghana Limited for coming up with this campaign to support our effort to reduce under-five mortality. We shall reciprocate this gesture by getting our nurses and midwives to intensify the education of expectant and new mothers on the needs to wash their hands with soap before touching their children”, she said.
Project Manager for WSUP, Lawrence Ofori-Addo, said the hand washing campaign, was not just about washing hands with soap and water but running water. According to him, WSUP is committed to the campaign and will ensure that schools across the country are provided with Veronica Buskets.
Lifebuoy according to Unilever, will sustain the campaign by continuing the engagement and education on ‘Help a Child Reach’ through different channels, including face to face interactions, radio and television, billboards.