H2O for Life partners with schools to not only help build a variety of different types of hand washing facilities, but also implement hygiene education for students in the developing world.
Hand washing with soap saves lives.
It is one of the most important WASH messages because it is the simplest and most effective way to prevent diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections. Children should learn that:
- Washing hands with water alone is not enough – soap should always be used
- The critical times to wash hands with soap are:
- After using the latrine
- Before touching food or eating
- After cleaning a young child or helping a child go to the toilet
Children and adults often know that they should wash their hands with soap but fail to do so for a variety of reasons, saying, for example, “my hands do not look dirty,” or “I know I should wash my hands, but nobody will notice if I don’t.”
Changing old habits
Remembering to wash hands with soap at these critical times often involves changing old habits. This is not easy, and change does not happen after just one lesson. It requires persistent effort on the part of teachers and families. Adopting new hygiene behavior also requires persuasion, which is usually in the form of a so-called ‘triggering’ – an experience, hearing about or seeing something that motivates people to make a change because they suddenly see a real reason for doing so.
Would you eat feces?
The idea of eating fecal matter is disgusting. Yet this is what happens if hands are not washed with soap after using the latrine and before eating.
The practice of anal cleansing after going to the toilet inevitably means that hands come into contact with the disease-causing pathogens (germs, bacteria) found in feces. These germs cannot be seen, but they are there. Unwashed hands touch food and the pathogens soon come into contact with the mouth.
When children and adults realize this they are usually totally disgusted. This feeling of disgust can motivate them to remember to always wash their hands with soap.
Finding good reasons to wash hands with soap
Teaching children germ theory – the science of how germs move from one person to the next – can be very technical and boring. The reasons a child will remember to wash his or her hands with soap are unlikely to be about health. Finding these reasons, whatever they might be, is an important step towards changing hand washing behavior.
Finding creative and different age appropriate ways to explain the importance of hand washing with soap can also be effective. Playing games, performing theater, creating songs, rhymes and chants all help children to learn while having fun.
Hand washing facilities
Every school should have a hand washing facility near its latrine blocks. There are different types of facilities, including simple devises such as tippy taps and more permanent structures such as the punched-pipe system. Once set up, children can be involved in making sure water and soap are always available.