Take a glance at this photo. You will notice that baby Raúl’s left hand is grabbing the white plastic frame of a plastic groceries holder. Now look at the photo more carefully. You will notice that he has his eyes set on something. Probably the onion that is visible in the photo. Or the tomatoes that are unseen because their ripe red color appeals to his baby senses. Whatever his eyes are set upon, he will grab it shortly and push it towards his lips. Now look behind baby Raúl’s little blue seat. Do you see that black water container? Take note of that.
Every time Baby Raúl grabs items or crawls on the floor, his palms come in contact with thousands of bacteria and viruses that hike a ride to his lips, eyes, ears or whichever part of the body those palms will land in the course of his baby adventures. Take note of this. Now lets move on the Emperor known as Public Health.
The emperor is naked. And it’s not a pretty sight. Not because of the wrinkles stretching across his body, because wrinkles are in fact the crown jewels of old age. Rather, the emperor’s naked body reveals fatal flaws that have been leading to death in Kenya long before Corona virus came calling. For too long, we have been indifferent to the sorry state of Kenya’s public health. Consequently, we have paid a heavy price.
As we wash our hands, we need to WASH, period. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is an antidote to disease and death. Here’s why.
If you dig into the mountain of data compiled by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), you will unearth a shocking statistic – In 2018, 1.4 million kids aged below five years suffered from diarrhea. For those aged above five years, running stomachs ravaged 1.5 million Kenyans. Tragically, many of the kids didn’t live to see another sunrise. They died.
We spend only 0.2 per cent of our GDP on sanitation. Consequently, our babies are dying from diarrhea. Almost half of the deaths of children aged below five are because of diarrhea. That’s crazy, right? Crazy and unacceptable. But in reality, we are the crazy ones for allowing WASH deficiencies to continue paving the way for viruses and bacteria to reign supreme.
Viruses are microscopic parasites, generally much smaller than bacteria.
A corona virus is 30,000 nucleotides long and nanometers wide. Say what? Let me repeat in plain English. It takes 800 of these viruses to fit into the width of a human hair. Talk of something so small having such a big impact on the world! Because they are so small, we can’t see them. But we can definitely feel their impact! Luckily, we have two allies that can help us to land a deadly blow on these viruses before they kill us – soap and water. But the only way of enlisting these two into our defense is through handwashing.
Baby Raúl is counting on us to wash our hands, his hands and Kenya’s hands through a revamped WASH strategy in the country. This means, among other things, ensuring that the water container behind baby Raúl’s chair is always full of water. Millions of Kenyans don't even have regular access to clean drinking water. For them, handwashing may appear like a luxury even though it's not. It's a matter of life and death.