Promoting Basic Hygiene in LaosWashing hands and brushing teeth can save lives!
Hygiene standards in rural Laos are generally low and local populations do not seem to fully understand the importance of following basic hygiene practices in daily life. The sanitary conditions at the primary schools are usually a good example of the lack of hygiene standards: broken toilets (which leads to open defecation by students), animal waste inside classrooms due to doors left open after school, lack of hand washing (as there is usually no clean, running water is available), etc. All this results in a high frequency of diseases among children, particularly diarrhoea, which can be dangerous.
In this regard, the Khammouane Local Development Project supports hygiene education in all 34 target villages across the three districts of Boualapha, Mahaxay and Nakai of Khammouane province.
Last month, the hygiene education pilot started in four villages of Boualapha district. The training aims at improving hygiene behaviour among kindergarten and primary schools pupils. Over 750 villagers (pupils and their parents, teachers, school directors and village authorities) will benefit from hygiene courses and complementary facilities that will be installed close to the toilets of the eight schools in the four villages. The facilities include water taps and “Tippy tap” hand washers (see picture below).
The training follows the so-called “children to parents approach”, whereby children that have become accustomed to hygienic behaviour taught in school adopt the same at home in hopes that it will influence the behaviour of their parents and siblings.
The training, conducted by a team from the French non-governmental organisation Sourires d’Enfants, uses interactive materials (such as the hygiene education toolkit called Blue Box, roleplaying, visual support, etc.) to focus on key behavioural changes in personal hygiene such as hand washing and brushing teeth. The programme also teaches safe management of drinking water and use of latrines in preference to open defecation in order to to induce lasting behavioural changes.
Such changes can only be perpetuated if the actions are applied and repeated, not only by the children, but also by teachers and ultimately the whole village. Furthermore, the Village Educational Development Committees reinforce behavioural change by establishing training support and promoting hygiene education. These Committees are often composed of village authorities, elders and some parents and are the main actor responsible for guaranteeing the continuity and sustainability of these hygiene practices in schools.
Finally, this approach also includes strong involvement and empowerment of authorities at the district and provincial levels, especially the Provincial School Health Task Force. Their capacity to train, encourage, follow-up on and raise awareness regarding good hygiene practices in the concerned villages will equally be essential for successfully implementing behavioural changes. Later this year, once the capacity of this Task Force is enhanced and lessons have been drawn from the pilot phase, the same activities will be implemented in KHALODEP’s other target villages.↑ To the top