Imagine not having a toilet. Not having running water at your home. Not having clean drinking water. This is a reality for many people. And the result of this reality is that many people suffer preventable diseases related to poor hygiene, sanitation, and lack of access to clean drinking water. For children, who have developing immune systems, the health threat is even greater. The World Health Organization states that:
“Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. [and] A significant proportion of diarrhoeal disease can be prevented through safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.”
One of our partners here in Burkina is working to address this issue. The aim of their project is to educate communities on sanitation and hygiene as well as providing the means for people to practice good hygiene. Their model is based on the belief that Awareness + Access will equal people practicing good hygiene and sanitation and therefore reducing instances of preventable diseases within the community.
Here are some of the activities the project facilitates:
- Training and awareness sessions that involve community members and leaders
- Radio and TV campaigns
- Student health clubs where students take responsibility for hygiene and sanitation at school
- Educational talks with pregnant and lactating women
- Hand washing stations (most schools in the villages this project works in have pit toilets and no facilities or running water for hand washing)
- School sanitation kits and household hygiene kits
All the activities are aimed at raising awareness about sanitation and hygiene so that the community can take the lead in making changes. One of the theoretical models being used in the program is Community-Led Total Sanitation. The approach was developed by a development consultant in India who “advocated change in institutional attitude and the need to draw on intense local mobilization …” And that is exactly what this partner is doing…focusing on mobilizing communities.
As the school year came to end in Burkina, the student health clubs our partner facilitates hosted a multi-school art competition on hygiene and sanitation themes. The competition provides a number of categories for schools to enter: drama, dance, drawing, and recitation. The performances are juried by community leaders including representatives from the Provincial Ministry of National Education and Literacy, the Regional Ministry of Culture and the Health Department. The brilliant thing about the competition is that so many community members come to watch and it is their own children raising awareness about hygiene and sanitation through the performances.
I was able to attend one of the preliminary competitions and then later the final award ceremony. I was super impressed by the effort and abilities of the students who performed. And most importantly I was excited to see that kids have engaged in thinking about how sanitation and hygiene practices directly impact their own health. Here are some shots of the top performers.