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Saving Lives with a Little Soap and Water: New Behavior Change Communication Package promotes healthy hygiene practices

Published 12/21/2022 by aadams

Pupil uses a tippy-tap in Asikuma Bremang

Imagine saving 5,000 lives. This is one of many things that the Government of Ghana and its non-profit and private-sector partners hope to accomplish by promoting improved water, sanitation and hygiene behaviors, like handwashing. According to UNICEF, more than 10,000 children in Ghana die each year from preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia.

To address these challenges, Global Communities encourages the construction of tippy taps or other handwashing stations. The United States Agency for International Development Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (USAID WASH for Health) has worked with communities to construct 5,331 tippy taps throughout Ghana, and provided over 200 Veronica Buckets (or mini handwashing stations) to institutions last year alone. Tippy taps and Veronica Buckets are a simple and effective solution to handwashing in areas where there is no running water. These efforts reinforce healthy handwashing behaviors after using the latrine and at other critical times in the day.

The simple act of hand washing can reduce preventable diseases by up to 50 percent. The challenge is that less than 15 percent of Ghanaian households have hand washing facilities. At the same time, only 20 percent of Ghanaians have access to a safe toilet, meaning that the majority of the population is forced to practice open defecation resulting in the further spread of hygiene-related diseases.

These are dual challenges. One is the lack of physical equipment and materials needed for adequate sanitation facilities. The other is instilling the knowledge and behaviors that encourage people to adopt improved hygiene practices.

Demonstrating handwashing in a basic school in Sawla, Ghana

For two years, Global Communities worked with government officials and WASH sector stakeholders to research, analyze and design a comprehensive Behavior Change Communication (BCC) package that contains a broad range of materials from instruction manuals to games and radio dramas that educate people on the importance of safer hygiene behaviors. Since introducing the package, in June 2017 at the Innovation at Work: Sustainable Sanitation Hygiene Technologies and Resources event in Accra, over 599 people have been trained on how to utilize the materials. The key messages include the importance of washing hands with soap under running water before eating and after defecating; the proper treatment, storage and retrieval of drinking water; and installing, using, and maintaining latrine. The roll-out of the new BCC materials is being combined with the promotion of the Digni-Loo.

The comprehensive education package, combined with affordable and easy-to-install handwashing stations aim to reinforce key healthy behaviors, improve health and sanitation outcomes throughout the country, and ultimately reduce preventable deaths and illness.

These efforts are being undertaken as part of the USAID WASH for Health program, a five-year initiative which aims to expand water and sanitation access and improve key hygiene behaviors in 30 districts in five regions of Ghana.