Improving hygiene and sanitation is not just about installing latrines. Poor hygiene behaviour can lead to many health problems. Children are too sick to attend school and gain an education, and parents are unable to earn an income and provide for their families. Simple changes such as washing hands with soap and water after going to the toilet or before preparing food could reduce the risk of diarrhoea by 30-50 per cent.
WaterAid include hygiene education in all their projects. Yet, adults can find it hard to change behaviour they’ve been used to all their life, no matter what benefits they’re missing. Children are more receptive to change – their influence can be powerful in persuading others to kick bad habits and adopt good hygiene practices
Hygiene education takes many forms; from radio broadcasts to puppet shows, household discussions to picture cards, painted murals to videos, WaterAid and its partners promote good hygiene in a myriad of ways.
One of the ways that WaterAid implements behaviour change is through chanting. In Rajshahi, in rural Bangladesh, ten year old Mithu is one of the ‘lead chanters’: “I have learnt to shout so loud from my teacher. I saw that people were getting diseases but I have learnt that it’s easy to stop it, and now we have! I had to persuade my father to get a latrine, and now we have one!”
When children learn the importance of good hygiene they are encouraged to pass these on to their families and friends, extending the benefits long into the future.