A hand washing campaign launched in two Kyenjojo sub-counties in August this year is not bearing fruit. A survey by the district health department found that the two sub-counties, Nyantungo and Nyakwanzi, have the highest occurrences of dysentery, a disease primarily spread by poor hygiene practices.
Nyantungo and Nyakwanzi sub-counties received 30 million shillings for the hand washing campaign.
Dr. Christine Kagaba, the Acting District Health Officer in Kyenjojo, says the money provided did not achieve the intended goals because people deliberately shunned the campaign. She says some families chased health workers away from their homes and local leaders refused to take part in the campaign because they would not be paid for mobilizing their communities to support it.
The hand washing campaign in Kyenjojo is part of a larger nationwide program. It engages public and private partners to teach mothers of children under five years about protecting their children against diarrhea, dysentery and anti-respiratory infections. The campaign also involves sensitizing children, aged between six and 14 years, on how to protect themselves against disease by washing their hands regularly with soap.
Frank Mwesige, the LC2 Chairperson of Kitosa Parish in Nyantungo, says it isn't true that the people of Kyenjojo rejected the hand washing campaign. He says people have to go to the fields to dig and don't have the time to sit for hours listening to health workers.
Mwesige reasons that if more people are to interested in the campaign, the National Hand Washing Campaign must pay them a daily allowance to motivate them to learn.
In Nyakwanzi sub-county where six people died of dysentery earlier this year, a local council official says it is not the fault of ordinary people that the campaign hasn't been well received.
Charles Katuramu, the LC2 Chairperson of Kahihura, says none of the health workers dispatched to teach people about hand washing has ever reached his parish. He says people are generally ignorant about the campaign.
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Although every child is taught to wash their hands after visiting the toilet and before eating meals, the practice is widely ignored. Recently the Kabale District Health Department found that only two in ten people there wash their hands with soap regularly.
The World Health Organization says hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. It considers the practice so important that last year it held the first-ever Global Hand Washing day to reinforce the call for improved hygiene practices.
Hand washing with soap can prevent diseases that kill millions of children every year. It is among the most effective ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the majority of child deaths.
According to the World Health Organization every year, more than 3.5 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhea and pneumonia. Hand washing can also prevent skin infections, eye infections, intestinal worms, and Avian Flu.