Keeping up with personal hygiene etiquettes is harder in this part of the world because of lack of access to clean water and soap. Handwashing with soap is a culture that is yet to be imbibed among many but the simple act that is often overlooked is a life saver. Millions of children under the age of 5 die of diarrhea and handwashing with soap is able to cut these numbers as it is one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs.
Aimcare Services is invested in encouraging the culture of handwashing especially among children and young adults in Nigeria. In an interview with YNaija’s Impact365, Aimcare Services founder, Mmekidmfon Umanah shares his vision for the organisation and its upcoming goals.
Tell us more about Aimcare Services
Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Aimcare Services is a social enterprise established to promote personal hygiene and instigate behavioral change by engaging in hygiene education.
We are concerned with improving African health through hygiene products and hygiene education. We believe in very strong terms that every child is entitled to proper personal hygiene.
Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved each year if people had ongoing access to basic hygiene products and hygiene education.
At Aimcare, we are working tirelessly to ensure everyone especially young people have this access regardless of economic status and location to ensure good health and well-being.
Our raison d’être, promoting and establishing quality hygiene practices for good health and well being means we are contributing our quota to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 6
What inspired the decision to set up an NGO that tends to personal hygiene?
Leadership, they say, is about taking life-changing initiatives. The horror of seeing hapless young African children die on TV due to preventable health, nutrition and sanitation problems in my infancy greatly appalled me and created in me a spark to want to do something about it.
Across the globe, 2.4 billion people do not have access to clean sanitation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Sicknesses related to contaminated water supplies and poor human hygiene tend to plague poorer regions in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, East Asia and the Caribbean.
You might be surprised to learn that the leading causes of death for children in developing countries are hygiene-related illnesses, which claim more than 1.8 million lives each year. That’s nearly one-third of all child deaths.
These saddening realities were what informed the decision to start Aimcare Services to champion the hygiene for every child campaign in mid 2016.
Aimcare in its one year of inception has been able to organize symposiums and outreaches in schools and communities for young people and mothers totaling over 3000, sensitizing them on the importance of adhering to basic hygiene in the prevention of such common killer diseases like diarrhea, cholera, giardiasis, typhoid etc.
We also are not oblivious of the African Girl and her many challenges. So, every of our campaigns are not complete without addressing menstrual health and hygiene. We give out free hygiene products including sanitary pads, soaps and toothbrushes.
Our numerous social works, outreaches and administration is funded and made sustainable with the sales of the Aimcare BathKit, a comprehensive carefully assembled toilet utility pack, designed to ensure excellent personal hygiene.
Hence we are rather a social enterprise than the conventional NGOs.
Most of your work is directed to children and young people, how about adults who have no knowledge of hygiene, especially those in slum areas?
Children are the greatest risk from life-threatening diseases, diarrhea inclusive, it is our sincere belief that if we can successfully inculcate in young people the habit of maintaining adequate hygiene we would have gone a long way in solving the problem.
However, this isn’t to say we neglect the adults. Women are very vital in this chain because mothers are instrumental to ensuring the health and well being of their children. Hence educating on the importance of adequate hygiene is essential.
What companies do you partner with in putting together and supplying your kits?
We produce bulk of the items in our kits, but there are a number of items that use known brands. The likes of Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser.
Amaecom Global helps us with logistics.
How do you ensure your beneficiaries maintain good personal hygiene long after you must have sensitized them?
So, further than teaching them the importance of maintaining good hygiene, we also give out free sanitary products including soaps, sanitary pads, toothbrushes to them. We ensure its not just mere talks.
At the moment we are giving out single items because we are still a young company, but the idea is to give out one bathkit for every one we sell, which can take them up to 3 months.
Also, we are constantly running advocacies online using our social media platforms especially on twitter (@aimcareng).
What parts of Lagos have you worked in and do you have plans to extend your campaign beyond Lagos?
Actually we started our initiative in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. We did several projects there one of which was a hygiene symposium sometime last year, where we had an alumnus of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as the keynote speaker.
So far in Lagos we have done programs in Igando and Ajah. We do not intend to stop in Lagos and we do not intend to stop in Nigeria. We hope to spread our work across Africa.
What is the biggest challenge Aimcare has faced so far?
That would be financial constraints. Planning and executing these outreaches are cash demanding and sometimes we come up short.
We are hoping that our work would attract the likes of UNICEF, USAID including well to do individuals to partner with us. It would go miles in helping us achieve our objectives.
Do you work with or have you, at some point, worked with the Ministry of Health?
Well, we are currently in talks with the Lagos State Ministry of Health. We want them to be directly involved in our Hygiene for Every Child Symposium coming up in October.
However, to be able to get access to schools and students we have had to work with the Ministry of Education. We even had the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Akwa Ibom State, at the time, attend one of our events in Uyo.
Any upcoming campaign?
We have an up coming event scheduled for the 12th of October 2017 in celebration of the Global Hand-Washing Day. It is going to be a Hygiene Symposium for about 1000 students from public secondary schools in Lagos State.
We have a number of other events lined up after this including an outreach for Women in an indigent community.