November 13, 2016

Proper sanitation and hygiene practices key to reducing the disease burden


This post originally appeared on The New Times.

We all at one point have had health issues due to poor hygiene and sanitation. You will be surprised by how many of us, young and old, visit clinics for outpatient consultations just because we are having stomach discomfort. And all this is most of the time due to poor hygiene and sanitation in our households or environment.

According to the World Health Organisation, sanitation refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human waste. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease worldwide. Sanitation can also mean the maintenance of hygienic conditions through services such as garbage collection and waste disposal. Hygiene itself refers to conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing diseases, especially through cleanliness.

Sanitation has many benefits, but one of the most important is its contribution to the healthy living of a community.

Proper sanitation and hygiene practices such as proper hand-washing after visiting toilets or before and after meals, just to mention a few, are key to reducing the spread of intestinal worms, parasitic worms and trachoma (bacterial infection of the eyes) which are neglected tropical diseases that cause suffering for millions worldwide.

Lack of proper menstrual hygiene facilities and toilets in schools often deters attendance, particularly for adolescent girls. I recall one story, during one of my social community medicine course visits where I asked a 23-year-old mother why she didn’t finish her primary education. She told me she was in class when she had her first menses and couldn’t go to the toilet because it was shared with boys, who were laughing at her, so she decided not to go back to school after that incident.


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