A total of 84,000 deaths were caused by diarrhea as recorded in the country since 2004, accounting for 25 per cent of deaths among children under age five.
Theodora Adomako-Adjei, Executive Service Coordinator of Community Water and Sanitation Agency, disclosed this at the launch of the Global Handwashing Day in Accra.
She said diarrhoea infections were caused by the ingestion of excreta and were the second most common cause of death in children.
Dubbed: “Saving Lives through handwashing with soaps,” the Day, the first of its kind instituted by the United Nations, forms part of this year's international year of sanitation.
It is to echo and reinforce the call for improved hygienic practices.
The programme, which attracted 120 Junior High School pupils in the Accra municipality, highlighted handwashing with soap as the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhoea diseases and pneumonia.
Mrs Adomako-Adjei noted that the challenge of the GHD is to transform handwashing with soap from an abstract good idea into an automatic behaviour performed in homes, schools and communities worldwide.
“Turning handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than a single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half,” she stated.
She said diarrhoea diseases could be prevented by ensuring that faeces are kept out of the environment through adequate sanitation and ensuring that hands are washed with soap after contact with excreta.
Mrs Adomako-Adjei said physical obstacles to handwashing with soap at schools exist in the country as 61 per cent of schools observed, lack handwashing facilities.
“Constraints to hand washing with soap after defecation include the lack of sensory cues of contamination, the lack of proximate handwashing facilities and socialisation on the use of water alone for hand washing,” she said.
The Deputy Regional Director of Education, Mrs Mary Quaye, said handwashing with soap was effective in interrupting the transmission of disease.
She said hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly via faeces.
“When not washed with soap, hands that have been in contact with human or animal faeces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions and contaminated foods or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to the body,” she said.
She urged the children to be health conscious and make the necessary effort to always wash their hands.
Eyram Dotsey of Ghana's Most Beautiful fame and an ambassador of sanitation, said hand washing saves lives and the GHD launch was timely.
She said hands are essential to the body and entreated all and sundry to treat the subject of handwashing with soap with all seriousness and also send the message across to others.