Mfon… Sanitizing the world through hygiene education
For Akwa-Ibom State born Mfon Umanah, the founder of Aimcare Service; a social enterprise that promotes personal hygiene and instigate behavioural change by engaging in hygiene education and advocacy, there is no better way to keep world and its inhabitants, especially human beings, safer than through proper hygiene maintenance.
The social-entrepreneur and former co-founder/COO of Bazar NG, is a beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurial Foundation; a member of the Young African Leader Initiative (YALI) Network, and a Winner of the Graduate Entrepreneurial Fund (GEF) initiative of Nigeria’s Bank of Industry.
In celebration of 2017 Mandela’s Day, his strong passion towards hygiene and helping youths spurred him to organise a hygiene outreach exercise across public schools in Lagos State, which took place on Tuesday, July 18.
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka graduate of Geoinformatics and Surveying, in a bid save to thousands of lives through his company Aimcare, took it upon himself to educate and inculcate in the teenagers good hygiene habits, provided free hygiene products, sanitary pads and toiletries among others.
According to him, if the World Health Organisation (WHO) can give free condoms to youths, sanitary pads should be given free to the less privileged and vulnerable in the society. He added that his company would use the outreach to give health talks and distribute free sanitary pads and other basic hygiene products like soaps to young girls and boys.
“Few years back, I was involved in a research project on hygiene; I took it upon myself to visit some public schools in Akwa-Ibom State. Throughout my project, I had the privilege to speak to a lot of young girls and boys, and I was surprised to hear how difficult it was for some girls to afford common sanitary pad and how people neglect hygiene. The problem is that we think it is easy to get because it is cheap, but seriously, not everyone can afford it.
“Can you imagine not being able to meet your most basic personal hygiene needs? This is a reality for Idara, a high school student. She does not have access to basic toiletries like soap and toothpaste and cannot bathe before going to school. There are hundreds of thousands of Idara across Africa. We want to spread the word across the nation; we will be going to different states. This year, we are focusing on Lagos State,” he stated.
Umanah continues: “A lot of things have been done over the years by governments and individuals to help the girl child, most especially in the area of child trafficking, rape etc, but it goes beyond that. It is my little way to say a girl child should be treated as a queen because a girl turns to a woman, a great woman makes a great society/nation.”
For him, the aim and motive of the outreach is to change lives and preach hygiene in the younger generation future. “We are true to purpose; there is a lot of sincerity of purpose in what we do. This is not a scheme; it is a deliberate attempt to contribute our quota as young people towards the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6,” he explained.
He noted that the inability to gain access to essential personal hygiene products can cause severe strain, adding that in a study conducted by Feeding America, 58 percent of low-income individuals, who were unable to buy personal care products reported cutting back on food to afford toiletries, while 40 percent reported skipping or delaying rent payments to obtain such products. In addition, 47 percent of the study participants reported feeling stressed and worried often or constantly.
“At Aimcare, we see how something as basic as a bar of soap can have a huge impact on how individuals feel about themselves and their surroundings. Because of this, we work tirelessly to bring these important products to all who need them. Everyone, especially young people should be entitled to ongoing access to good hygiene products and education regardless of economic status and location to ensure good health and well being.”
“We believe in very strong terms that every child is entitled to proper personal hygiene. We aim to improve African health through hygiene products and hygiene education. At Aimcare we understand that hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved each year if people have access to basic hygiene products and hygiene education. Hence we launched the Hygiene For Every Child Campaign.
“We engage a three-pronged approach in implementing our campaign. Firstly, we believe that education is the most potent tool to change the World. We organize free hygiene symposiums and wellness campaigns for young people in the society. We inform them of the importance of maintaining proper personal hygiene for a healthy living. We also use our social media platforms to champion hygiene courses and Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 6.
“Secondly, products. We produce and supply bath kits to schools, government agencies, hospitals, and a bunch of other change makers. The Aimcare Bathkit is a carefully assembled toilet utility pack designed to ensure excellent personal hygiene. The pack contains a perfect assemblage of everything necessary for the convenience of users. Lastly is outreach; we organize ‘Live Clean’ hygiene outreaches, which are aimed at helping vulnerable children in rural communities have access to basic hygiene products.
“In all our outreaches, we give out hygiene products to children and young people who ordinarily would not have been able to afford them. In our 12 months of existence we have impacted over 3000 young people with our projects.” Umanah explained
Projecting into the future, he wants to see a world where there is access to adequate, equitable and proper hygiene for all especially those in vulnerable situations. “I want to see a world where people will have access to hygiene products and hygiene related deaths is drastically reduced to its barest minimum. An estimated 1.9 billion school days could be gained if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to safe water supply and sanitation is achieved and the incidence of diarrhea illness is reduced.”
He enjoined the youths to join hands to make Africa great, stressing that, Nelson Mandela, Africa’s greatest statesman in his address to African youths said: “It is in your hands to make the world better for those who live in it. Youths are pivotal to nation building, I encourage every young person out there to join hands and make Africa great.”
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