Microbiological quality of water in handwashing bowls in basic schools in the Ablekuma South Sub- Metropolis of Accra, Ghana

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Inadequate hand-washing facilities have been reported as a barrier to hand washing. This study aimed to assess the microbiological quality of the water in the stand alone bowls for hand washing in the Tunga Islamic Community Basic School and Zamarama Line Basic School in the Ablekuma South Sub-metropolis of Accra. It also determined the Frequency in changing the water for hand washing in the selected schools. Water samples from stand alone hand washing bowls in front of classrooms in the ‘Tunga’ Islamic Community Basic School where students washed without soap and the ‘Zamarama’ Line Basic School where an amount of liquid soap is poured into the hand washing water immediately it is placed there (although its efficacy could not be ascertained) for pupils to use on communal basis in the Ablekuma South Sub-metropolis of Accra were sampled before use at 8.00am and after use at 8.00am 11.00am and 2.00pm. The study revealed that the microbiological quality of water in hand washing bowls used in the selected basic schools in the Ablekuma South Sub-metropolis of Accra were unacceptable for use by the pupils. The microbial quality was often relatively good before use in the morning but deteriorates as the day wears on mainly because there is no running tap water in the schools and the pupils have to carry water in plastic gallons to school. Average total heterotrophic plate counts were initially 4.81×101 cfu /ml when it was placed there for use in hand washing, but increased to 1.04×108 cfu/ml after use by the children at 8.00am. This increased to 1.33×108 cfu/ml after use at 11.00am and to 2.18×109 cfu/ml after use at 2.00pm. That of Zamarama Line Basic School also showed a similar trend. Average heterotrophic plate count before use by the pupils at 8am was 2.08×101 and increased to 1.34×104 cfu/ml after use at 8am. It later increased to 3.09x104 cfu/ml at 11am after use and then to 2.46×105 cfu/ml at 2.00pm after use. Staphylococcus aureus and faecal coliform were however absent in the hand washing water before use in both schools but were detected after use at 8:00 am and the levels increased with the passage of time in both schools. E. coli which must not be present in water for hand washing, bathing and dish washing according to WFP/UNESCO/WHO (1999), and the Drinking Water Quality Standards by US EPA (2002), which has the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of this microorganism in drinking water to be zero was detected. The water used for hand washing in the schools studied was not changed throughout the day. It was concluded that the aim of hand washing which is to decontaminate the hands and prevent cross transmission was not achieved because the hand washing water was being used on communal basis by the pupils in the schools, and this would contributes to, rather than prevent, cross-contamination as pathogens present on hands of infected persons and could be transferred to those who subsequently dip their hands in the same bowl of water as a result of inadequate hand-washing facilities.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Theoretical and Applied Biology, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Environmental Science, 2014