Choose handwashing, choose health

Choose handwashing, choose health

'Choose Handwashing, Choose Health' was the national theme in Zambia for Global Handwashing Day on 15 October. The day aims to raise awareness about handwashing around the world and mobilise people to wash their hands with soap to prevent the spread of diseases.

SNV commemorated Global Handwashing Day in the Mungwi district in Northern Zambia this year, bringing the subject matter to an area that has one of the worst sanitation and hygiene statistics in the country. According to a baseline surveyconducted by SNV, 85% of the people in the Mungwi district practise open defecation and none of the surveyed practise handwashing regularly. With statistics like these, it’s no surprise that diarrhoea is the third largest killer of children under five years old in the country.

To address these challenges, the Zambian Government launched the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (NRWSSP) which also prioritizes sanitation and hygiene. The expected outcomes of the sanitation and hygiene component are that by 2015:

  • 60% of the rural population have access to adequate toilets

  • 60% of rural households have sufficient, adequate hand washing facilities within or next to toilets, with water and soap/ other hand washing medium available at the facilities.

SNV seeks to contribute to the attainment of the NRWSSP targets through its Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) Results Challenge Programme funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Through the SSH4A Programme, SNV Zambia seeks to achieve the following overall results by 2015 in Kasama, Luwingu, Mporokoso and Mungwi districts in the Northern Province:

  • An additional 230 000 people have access to improved sanitation

  • 250 000 people are reached through hygiene promotion

For Global Handwashing Day, SNV in partnership with the local government conducted a triggering session in Kamema village in Mungwi District. Kamema residents were exposed to triggering tools that stimulated a collective sense of disgust, fear and shame as they confronted crude facts about mass open defecation and its negative impacts on the entire community. Not only were they shown exercises such as the faecal-oral route that show how community members “eat each other’s excrement”, they were also shown the economic benefits of changing their behaviour; obtaining medical care for one severe diarrhoea patient can cost as much as ZMW 800 ($129) while the construction of an adequate latrine with local labour and materials costs ZMW 200 ($32). After a morning of dialogue and practical exercises, Kamema villagers vowed to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status by 10 November 2014.

Solutions such as washing hands and constructing adequate latrines to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera have been advocated for years, but yet, are still not practiced by millions around the world. In addition to simple behavioural change promotion and activities, SNV anchors all interventions in local government and community structures to ensure sustainability and ownership, and will also help develop a sanitation hardware market strategy and supply chain to make sure that communities have access to much needed services and products to ensure that they are equipped to change their behaviours.