Growing up, my parents once lived in a ‘face-me-I-face-you’ apartment, where there was no toilet. Behind the house was a refuse dump, where we went in the morning or any time of the day, hid ourselves in a corner, children and adults alike, to answer the call of nature.
This particular weekend, my parents were out of town and my unhealthy health practices had taken their due toll on me. I was down with cholera from Friday. I was vomiting and going to the toilet at the same time. I did not have appetite for food and the little that was left in me was being discharged through my mouth and anus rapidly. My parents returned on Sunday and met me almost lifeless. They rushed me to the hospital and the doctor said if they had brought me five minutes later, I would have been history.
This experience did not teach me to be hygiene conscious. Though, as I grew older and attained independence, I got better. But I wasn’t interested in hand washing. I did not see its importance until I got married. My wife would insist on hand washing, rinsing of already washed cutlery before we use and fruits before we eat. It was war. As she insisted, I began to practice hand washing and other hygiene measures she insisted on, though I did not fully comprehend why I should, considering my background, I did it religiously because my wife insisted.
Few years into our marriage, I was attending a training-the-trainer workshop on Child Rights Reporting at the United Nations House, Abuja, organized by UNICEF, there we treated a topic known as WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). There I learnt the wisdom in hand washing. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Hand Washing is the single most important means to keep from getting sick and to prevent the spread of infection.’ We were also informed that many children have been lost to poor hygiene practices. As we were being trained, I did not know when I shouted, ‘this is what my wife has been telling me o!’
Today, it is clear that the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) campaign does not have any breath of expression in most of our public schools and hospitals as there is no water to flush the toilet, not to talk of the user washing his or her hand. Chibuike Umeh, a pupil of Birrel Avenue High school, Yaba, shared the experience of his peers on the use of the school toilet: “It’s very messy,” he said. “Every time you go in, you must see urine on the floor, and sometimes you even see faeces on the floor. We usually urinate somewhere behind the (school) building, and when we have to do the main thing (defecate), we don’t sit on the bowl; even sometimes, some students do it on the floor.”
I think it is high time we took hygiene serious by leading our children to embrace hand washing after the use of toilet, returning home after the day. We should also wash fruits before we consume and wash or rinse our cutlery before we use them. Thank you. Have an INSPIRED weekend.