Amidst fears of the spread of the coved19, commonly known as coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has given some guidelines on hygiene and cleanliness. The Ministry of Health has also issued these guidelines and are urging citizens to observe strict standards of hygiene. This is indeed urgent as many people in our society do not observe hygienic practices at all.
Today, a respected friend of mine and a very concerned Gambian brought something to my attention and requested me to write an article on it to enlighten the people. He narrates that while he was buying breakfast, one man came to supply bread to the shopkeeper. He held many loaves of bread with his bare hands, the loaves extending up to his elbows. The problem was that he was sweating profusely.
To make matters worse, when he delivered the first set of loaves, he blew his nose and wiped his hands on his trousers and continued supplying bread without washing his hands or using any sanitary measures. My friend approached him and told him that what he had done was wrong and unhygienic. He apologized and said he will do better henceforth.
When my friend narrated this to me and urged me to write about it, it reminded me of the other complaint that I have been raising for a while now. Though I am no health expert, far from it in fact, I know that the way and manner in which most shopkeepers handle bread is wrong and not in line with hygienic practices. Some of these shopkeepers handle bread with their bare hands and keep touching other items like soap or mosquito coil only for them to go back to touching bread to serve the next client.
If someone happens to have a cold and blows their nose frequently, it will not stop them from handling bread and other consumables in the same way and selling it to people. This has the potential of transferring viruses from one person to another. Come to think of it, we are all at risk continuously in this country. No care is taken in the handling of most food items. Something needs to be done and soon.
The other observation is on the material most bread sellers wrap bread in. They buy many kilogrammes of used newspapers mostly from Europe and use them to wrap bread and serve it to people. We do not know what is on those papers; what level of cleanliness was kept when they were printed and handled by the readers there or whist not.
These papers have printed writings on them and we never know whether the printer used ink that fades and erodes into whatever it is that is wrapped within it or not. We simply buy it because it is cheaper than what one can have here to preserve the cleanliness of the food one is serving. So, again I say, we are always at risk in this country.
Can you imagine if, God forbid, the coved19 were to find its way into the Gambia? How rapid would its spread be? It will reach almost every household within a comparatively short time. This is something worth looking into. What can we do about this? Do we have a department responsible for this? Yes, that is the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA). They have the mandate to ensure that all sellers of food keep the highest standard of cleanliness, but are they?
Again here is another avenue which could have – should have – warranted the National Assembly or a member thereof to introduce a bill to ensure that no one sells food in an unhygienic manner. This law will then be implemented fully and anyone found wanting be made to pay the price.
Our entrepreneurs be innovative enough to find a way around this problem and bringing something new to be used to wrap the bread in. In this way, it will protect our health, it will also create employment in the country. There is so much we can – should – do to improve our lives. Would that our people begin thinking outside the box!