The approach chosen be the project - the provision of pit latrines, household water treatment devices, hand-washing stations and intensive education – is assuring me that simple, affordable and sustainable technologies coupled with good hygiene practices, such as washing hands after visiting the latrine, are also promoted. Hygiene promotion leading to hygiene behaviour changes is a key part of success in such projects. Excluding it would withhold communities getting full health benefits of their new facilities.
I have worked a number of years in a rural drinking water programme in Cameroon which promoted behaviour changes as well. The provision of facilities alone does not make great changes. My Cameroonian colleagues started early including women in managing water facilities and invited the community and women in particular to take part in hygiene lessons. By understanding prevalent taboos and beliefs in a given community and the design of culturally appropriate facilities changes will be made and they will last. Not to forget that interventions should preserve always the dignity of women and girls.
It is known that women influence hygiene in the home to a great extent. Hygiene and sanitation educational programmes for village communities and neighbouring primary and secondary schools included drama shows by the Cameroonian field workers and villagers and were an integral part of the drinking water programme mentioned. The role of good hygiene in the control of water- and sanitation-related diseases is crucial. One should not forget that 1.1.billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water. That’s one in six. 2.6 billion people are still looking for a toilet.
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