By Najib Mulema

About  97 per cent of households in Uganda, regardless of economic status have soap. Yet the Uganda formative study (2007) and UBOS census (2012) indicated that the practice of hand washing with soap at critical junctures (after visiting the toilet, before eating or serving food and after cleaning the babies bottom is not widely practiced.

Soap, according to Eng. Joseph Oriono Eyatu, the Commissioner of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation at the Ministry of Water and Environment ,  is instead prioritized for laundry, bathing and washing utensils.

He was speaking at the Global Handwashing Day Editors’ breakfast at Hotel Africana, Kampala on Friday.

Eng. Eyatu said many Ugandans tend to ignore washing hands with soap yet in actual sense it’s the most simple and cheapest way of reducing deaths attributed to pneumonia and diarrhea especially among children under the age of five.

“Studies have shown that in Uganda, 32,500 children die every year due to diarrhea and pneumonia yet a simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children under five by 47 percent and Acute Respiratory Infections by 25 per cent,” he disclosed.

The commissioner also revealed that the ministry is in final plans to promote highway sanitation.

According to Eng. Eyatu, the ministry has already carried out feasibility studies regarding the hygiene of long route travelers across the country.

“We are planning to put up sanitation facilities like toilets with clean water, disposable dustbins, food stalls, and tourism sites on major highways across the country,” he said.

On the other hand, Mr. Robert Otim, the National coordinator of National Hand Washing Initiative at Ministry of Water and Environment said all government agencies and development partners should work hand in hand to surpass Hand Washing with Soap (HWWS) policies and strategies as a way of overcoming problems attributed to poor hygiene.

Mr. Otim further noted as Uganda prepares to commemorate the Global Hand Washing Day on 15 October in Kamwenge District, they have organised hygiene week activities that include; school hygiene competitions, 30 minutes school hand hygiene lesson, Global Hand Washing Day hygiene performances, Global Hand Washing Day Expo, hygiene clean ups and Hand Washing With Soap Refugee settlements.