BY simply washing their hands with soap and running water, people are practising the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent the spread of Hepatitis E that has infected more than 6 500 people in Namibia since December 2017.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Juliet Kavetuna, officiated at th 12th commemoration of Global Hand Washing day at Oshikango and said that the regular washing of hands can prevent the spread of the disease.
“This intervention reduces the spread of the disease among children under the age of five and can also prevent deaths related to Hepatitis E in communities” said Kavetuna.
She stated that during the period from July 2018 to September this year, Ohangwena region reported 112 cases of Hepatitis E, with 75 confirmed cases and one death linked to the outbreak.
“During the regional assessment in the Ohangwena region regarding the Hepatitis E outbreak, it was learned that all the people who were diagnosed with Hepatitis E were mostly males who depend on food bought from street vendors,” said Kavetuna. “Hence the relevance of addressing hand washing as a main prevention mechanism.”
According to her, Namibia has been battling the outbreak of Hepatitis E since December 2017. She added that 6 517 cases has been reported up to September this year, while 55 lives has been lost since the outbreak started.
Kavetuna noted that is the duty of every Namibian to ensure that their communities have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
Speaking on the same occasion United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Representative, Gregor von Medeazza, said the day continues to serve as an important reminder that the regular washing of hands with soap can save lives of all people.
Medeazza pointed out that poor hygiene and lack of access to sanitation contribute 88 percent of deaths from diseases, accounting for 1.5 million diarrhea-related deaths for children under five each year.
“Children suffer disproportionately from diarrheal and respiratory disease and deaths,” he said.
He noted that Namibia currently ranks as a country with low sanitation coverage, whereby more than 52 percent of the country does not have access to proper sanitation services and around half of people in Namibia continue to defecate in the open.
“The situation is equally challenging regarding school-based hygiene and sanitation,” noted Medeazza.
According to the latest global WHO-UNICEF monitoring data, only 20 percent of schools in Namibia have basic hygiene facilities and 16 percent have limited facilities while the remaining 64 percent of schools have no hygiene no sanitation facilities at all.
UNICEF is currently partnering with various government ministries, the City of Windhoek and the Non-Government Organisation Workshop Namibia, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to implement Community Led Total Sanitation and School Led drive in the Khomas, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi Regions.