Hand-washing: the do-it yourself vaccine
Safe water alone is not enough to stop water borne diseases, which is why we focus on hygiene and sanitation before we install the new well.
Our local partner, Village Water Zambia, leads training sessions on the link between poor practices and health and what actions people can take to improve this. Handwashing is vital as experts believe it could save more lives than any other single vaccine or medical intervention.
We ask every household to build a covered latrine with a tippy tap for hand-washing and to commit to ending open defecation.
Latrines that last
Village Water insists on an end to open defecation because the best health benefits come when people use a decent toilet, wash their hands and drink safe water.
This can be hard as latrines often collapse during annual floods, with open defecation being the only alternative. Thanks to funding from the UK Department for International Development, we’ve been testing a reinforced latrine which we hope will last for many seasons, allowing families to enjoy uninterrupted use of their latrine.
As Zambia’s population is very young, we are commited to working with school pupils, the next generation of parents, so that they understand the importance of good hygiene. They are encouraged to spread the word back in their communities.
School based training includes using a latrine instead of open defecation, washing hands at key times and drinking water from a protected source. One school has even come up with a great song called ‘Our Desire’ which we can’t stop singing in the office!
Removing other barriers to education
Many schools have no toilets or water source and girls miss school once they reach puberty, or even drop out altogether. We know it is vital to build adequate facilites and also to break down the stigma around menstruation.
We work with teachers, girls and boys on menstrual hygiene management, so everyone understands puberty, and it really is working. At Sikundu School, pupils reported feeling much more confident in their knowledge and have made a commitment to change their attitudes. The school has also built a bath shelter for girls, giving them more privacy.